Twenty-Nine Defendants Facing State or Federal Charges for Alleged Roles in 'Cracking Cards' Schemes Costing Banks Millions of Dollars
CHICAGO—Twenty-nine northern Illinois and Indiana defendants are facing state or federal charges following a coordinated investigation of “cracking cards,” a scheme that costs banks millions of dollars and has its roots on Chicago’s south side and is spreading to other cities through rap music and social media. Six Indiana defendants include four men who are part of a group that has posted Internet rap videos referring to the cracking cards scheme and displaying large amounts of cash and expensive items, according to the charges announced today.
Federal agents and local law enforcement officers from the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, FBI, IRS Criminal Investigation Division, FDIC and U.S. Department of Labor Offices of Inspector General, the Chicago Police Department, and the Sheriff’s Offices of Cook and DeKalb counties began arresting the defendants yesterday. Sixteen are facing federal bank fraud charges in Federal Court in Chicago; six are facing federal charges in U.S. District Court in Hammond, Ind., and seven are facing state charges brought by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office.
Since at least 2011, the defendants and other individuals allegedly deposited counterfeit checks into banking accounts belonging to third parties who willingly or unwillingly surrendered their debit cards and PINs for use in the cracking cards schemes. The defendants then allegedly used automated teller machines or point of sale terminals at currency exchanges and retail stores to withdraw or spend funds that the banks advanced to the third-party accounts before learning that the deposited checks were bogus. The banks lost money they advanced to the account holders when the customers denied responsibility for the withdrawals and purchases.
Cracking cards schemes have become a popular method of obtaining illicit funds in Chicago and surrounding areas. The schemes often involve numerous participants, including some individuals affiliated with Chicago street gangs, the charges allege. Schemers use various methods to recruit bank customers to give up their debit cards and PINs, including approaching individuals at parties, schools, or on the street, and using social media outlets, such as Instagram and Facebook, to advertise opportunities for making fast cash by sharing a portion of the fraud proceeds.
“Our purpose today is to warn bank customers that fast cash schemes are usually too good to be true and they should always safeguard their account information, and, at the same time, we are putting those persons who engage in this type of illegal activity on notice that debit card fraud can result in serious state or federal charges, which carry severe penalties and consequences,” said Zachary T. Fardon, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois.
“Over the last three years, the United States Postal Inspection Service and other federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, have conducted this major bank fraud investigation involving ‘cracking cards.’ The charges allege that defendants knowingly deposited fraudulent checks intending to defraud banks and their customers. The Postal Inspection Service is committed to working together with the banking industry to protect the public and preserve its trust in the U.S. mail and banking system,” said Antonio Gómez, Inspector-in-Charge of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service in Chicago.
According to the federal charging documents, after schemers obtained a debit card and PIN for a bank customer’s account, they manufactured or purchased one or more counterfeit checks to deposit into the account. The bogus checks often contained legitimate bank account and routing numbers that belonged to the accounts of actual businesses. Certain individuals developed a reputation for “making paper,” that is, making, printing, and selling counterfeit checks. The schemers then deposited, or recruited someone else to deposit, the counterfeit checks into the third party’s bank account, typically via an ATM transaction. The schemers then waited for the bank to credit the purported funds from the counterfeit check, usually within hours of the deposit, after which they often attempted a small ATM withdrawal of $100 or more to determine whether an account was credited with the advanced funds. If the transaction succeeded, schemers went to an ATM, a currency exchange, or point-of-sale terminal at a retail store to withdraw or spend the remaining funds that the bank advanced to the third-party account.
One defendant, MATTHEW MOSLEY, 26, of Chicago, allegedly “made paper,” that is, he manufactured counterfeit checks, which he used and sold to others in cracking cards schemes. Mosley was arrested yesterday and charged with bank fraud for allegedly causing banks to lose more than $32,000 in funds he withdrew after depositing counterfeit checks.
Mosley was one of 16 defendants charged with bank fraud in separate criminal complaints filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago. These 16 defendants allegedly caused bank losses totaling more than $1.7 million, with individual defendants responsible for amounts ranging from $26,000 to $260,000. Five of these defendants were arrested yesterday, one was already in custody, and arrest warrants were issued for 10 others.
Six other defendants were charged with conspiracy to commit bank fraud in a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Hammond. These defendants allegedly caused thousands of dollars in bank losses. Five of the six were arrested yesterday and remain in custody while the sixth was already in state custody. All six are scheduled to appear tomorrow morning in Federal Court in Hammond.
Four of these defendants ― KEVIN FORD, 26, of Chicago; CORTEZ STEVENS, 24, of Griffith, Ind.; STEPHEN GARNER, 23,of Portage, Ind.; and MIKCALE SMALLY, 21, of Chicago ― are identified in the complaint as part of a group that called themselves “R.A.C.K. Boyz,” “Rack Boyz,” or “TheRackBoyz.” The other two defendants, MERCEDES HATCHER, 21, of Danville, Ill., and BRITTANY SIMS, 24, of Portage, Ind., were identified as Ford’s and Garner’s girlfriends, respectively.
The RACK Boyz have Facebook and Twitter accounts and post videos on YouTube, including a rap video entitled, “For the Money,” which refers to cracking cards and shows the defendants wearing RACK Boyz shirts and displaying large amounts of cash, according to the complaint affidavit. Ford is also associated with a different so-called “money team,” known as BandKlan, which also has rap videos posted on YouTube.
The complaint alleges that the defendants use social media to recruit people with bank accounts or who will open bank accounts to use in the cracking cards scheme. They allegedly sent out numerous private messages and posted messages on their Facebook walls inviting people to participate in the scheme. The charges allege that the defendants were linked to numerous withdrawals from third-party bank accounts after counterfeit checks were deposited.
Ford also allegedly “made paper,” by printing fraudulent checks, and, on Oct. 20, Ford allegedly posted threats to law enforcement officers on his Facebook wall.
Seven defendants were arrested yesterday and today on state charges filed by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office. They are: RAPHAEL FOX, 23, of Chicago; TIERRE McKNIGHT, 19, of Country Club Hills; DONOVAN GRICE, 22, of Dolton; ROYTRELL LONG, 20, of Matteson; LAKEYA SHAMBLEY, 23, of Chicago; MICHAEL BONDS, 26, of Dolton; and ANTONIO CHAVIS, Jr., 21, of Chicago. Each was charged with continuing financial crimes enterprise, financial institution fraud, wire fraud, and Long, alone, was also charged with forgery.
In addition to Matthew Mosley, the remaining 15 Chicago federal defendants (all of Chicago unless noted otherwise) and the amounts of their alleged frauds are: DONNIVAN ALLEN, 25, $196,000; TYRONE BULLOCK, 25, $260,000; DURRAN DAVIS, 29, $90,000; SAMAJE DAVIS, 26, $140,000; MICHAEL GREEN, 27, $61,000; DAVEY HINES, 21, $85,000; CHESTER JACKSON, 23, $26,000; ANTWAN D. KINERMAN, 23, of Markham, $45,000; DENNIS MITCHELL, 26, of Hammond, $50,000; PAIGE PARKER, 24, $85,000; KEVIN THUNDERBIRD, 28, $45,000; RASHEED THURMAN, 28, $200,000; JAVON TURNER, 21, $70,000; MAHLIK WASHINGTON, 22, $100,000; and BLAKE WILLIAMS, 30, of Schaumburg, $230,000.
The charges identify Citibank, U.S. Bank, JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, and others as being among the victims of the schemes.
As a result of this investigation, CHRISTOPHER CAIN, 26, of Chicago, was charged previously with bank fraud in U.S. District Court in Chicago. Cain, who was the first defendant charged with card-cracking, pleaded guilty, admitting that he was responsible for bank losses totaling $184,877. Earlier this month, Cain was sentenced to five years in federal prison.
The arrests and charges were announced by Zachary T. Fardon, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; David A. Capp, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Indiana; Anita Alvarez, Cook County State’s Attorney; Antonio Gómez, Inspector-in- Charge of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service in Chicago; Robert J. Holley, Special Agent-in- Charge of the Chicago Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; W. Jay Abbott, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Indianapolis Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; James C. Lee, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division; Joe Moriarty, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Office of Inspector General; James Vanderberg, Special Agent-in-Charge of the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Inspector General; Garry McCarthy, Superintendent of the Chicago Police Department; Thomas Dart, Cook County Sheriff; and Roger A. Scott, DeKalb County Sheriff. Fraud investigators from several banks assisted in the investigation.
The 16 federal defendants in Chicago were each charged with one count of bank fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine. The six federal defendants in Hammond were each charged with one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. If convicted, the Court must impose a reasonable sentence under federal statutes and the advisory United States Sentencing Guidelines.
In the federal cases, the government is being represented in Chicago by Assistant United States Attorneys Kate Zell, Sunil Harjani, Elizabeth Pozolo, and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Heidi Manschreck. In Hammond, the government is being represented by Assistant United States Attorney Diane Berkowitz. The state case is being prosecuted by the Public Corruption and Financial Crimes Unit of the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office.
The public is reminded that complaints contain only charges and are not evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent and are entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.