U.S. Attorney's Office
Northern District of Georgia
(404) 581-6000
October 20, 2015

Five Defendants Sentenced to Prison for Bank Fraud

ATLANTA—Julius C. Appling, Taj J. Tillison, Tal V. Tillison, Aryonne Johnson, and Andrew Smith, a/k/a Dru, have been sentenced to federal prison for conspiracy to commit bank fraud in connection with their scheme to deposit fraudulent checks at Wells Fargo and SunTrust banks in the metropolitan Atlanta, Georgia area.

“The defendants were able to commit this fraud because they duped unwitting people into allowing them access to their personal bank accounts,” said U.S. Attorney John Horn. “Alarm bells should go off if anyone offers you money in return for depositing their check into your bank account so that they can immediately get the cash from the check. Days later when that person is long gone and you learn that the check bounced, you will be held financially responsible.”

“These five individuals found out the hard way that bank fraud is a serious federal crime involving federal prison time. The FBI treats these types of financial crimes targeting the banking industry very seriously and cautions anyone considering this type of criminal activity to reconsider,” said J. Britt Johnson, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Atlanta Field Office.

According to U.S. Attorney Horn, the charges and other information presented in court: The defendants paid individuals for access to their bank accounts at Wells Fargo and SunTrust banks. In connection with this access, the defendants would gain use of the individuals’ ATM and debit cards, including the PIN to allow their use. They would then deposit fraudulent checks into these third party accounts. The checks were drawn on accounts that had long been closed or the checks were completely fake. The individuals who gave the Defendants access to their accounts were not aware that the Defendants intended to deposit fraudulent checks into the accounts. Once the checks had bounced, those individuals were held responsible for the losses by the banks.

Both Wells Fargo and SunTrust make funds available from deposited checks the same day as the deposit, so after depositing fraudulent checks, the Defendants would either withdraw cash directly from the accounts through ATMs or would make purchases using debit cards and request cash back at the point of sale transaction. Each defendant was captured in multiple photos taken by ATM cameras for many of the deposits and withdrawals. Ultimately, the five defendants gained access to more than 200 bank accounts. The defendants deposited over $880,000 worth of fraudulent checks and withdrew over $360,000.

A federal Grand Jury indicted the defendants on October 28, 2014, and all five defendants pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud. U.S. District Judge Thrash sentenced all five defendants to prison.

  • On October 20, 2015, Taj J. Tillison, 24, of Atlanta, Georgia, was sentenced to four years, three months in prison, to be followed by five years of supervised release. She was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $88,933.67.
  • On September 3, 2015, Julius C. Appling, 25, of Atlanta, Georgia, was sentenced to four years, nine months in prison, to be followed by five years of supervised release. He was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $364,250.43.
  • On June 24, 2015, Tal V. Tillison, 25, of Atlanta, Georgia, was sentenced to four years, nine months in prison, to be followed by five years of supervised release. He was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $300,807.34.
  • On June 23, 2015, Andrew Smith, a/k/a Dru, 34, of Atlanta, Georgia, was sentenced to two years, nine months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release. He was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $92,415.08.
  • On May 28, 2015, Aryonne Johnson, 25, of Atlanta, Georgia, was sentenced to two years, nine months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release. She was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $162,734.65.

This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher J. Huber prosecuted the case.

Today’s announcement is part of efforts underway by President Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force (FFETF) which was created in November 2009 to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. Attorneys’ offices and state and local partners, it’s the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud. Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions and other organizations. Since fiscal year 2009, the Justice Department has filed over 18,000 financial fraud cases against more than 25,000 defendants. For more information on the task force, please visit www.StopFraud.gov.

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