March 18, 2016

CheckCashing Scheme Voided

Multi-Agency Effort Disrupts U.S. Treasury Check-Cashing and Identity Theft Ring

Treasury Check and Cash

The treasury checks were meant for military families, taxpayers receiving refunds, and Social Security beneficiaries—but they wound up in the hands of thieves instead.

From June 2012 to September 2014, a band of 19 criminals in Atlanta ran a large-scale U.S. Treasury check-cashing and identity theft ring that defrauded the federal government and retail stores of nearly $1 million. The ring included check suppliers, sellers, identification manufacturers, and “check runners” who used fake driver’s licenses to cash stolen checks.

At the center of it all was career criminal Asad Abdullah, who orchestrated the elaborate scheme from inside a Georgia state prison. With regular access to contraband cellphones, Abdullah was able to contact his younger brothers in Atlanta, and he soon had the resources he needed to mobilize the family-run criminal enterprise.

Here’s how it worked: Thieves stole checks from various sources, including the U.S. mail, and middlemen purchased the checks at a percentage of their face value, usually 25 percent. Meanwhile, identification manufacturers were paid to produce counterfeit Georgia driver’s licenses matching the names and addresses of the victims, but with photos of the scheme’s check runners, who would cash the checks at grocery stores, discount supermarkets, and check-cashing outlets.

While U.S. Treasury check-cashing was a regular activity for Abdullah’s crew, the ambitious enterprise also engaged in credit card fraud. Inside sources working at big-box stores with regular access to customer and store credit card data provided the thieves with a steady flow of personal information. This data was used to produce counterfeit identification documents so the fraudsters could pose as real store club members. Trips to stores throughout Georgia, Tennessee, and Alabama resulted in brand new replacement credit cards that were ultimately used to purchase gift cards, gas, groceries, and other items.

The ring was finally derailed following a series of early morning raids and takedowns on September 24, 2014, which turned up weapons, cash, and identity document manufacturing hardware.

“The 16-month investigation was an enormous cooperative effort involving numerous federal, state, and local law enforcement resources,” said an FBI Atlanta agent assigned to the case.

As part of the investigation, a confidential informant assisted the FBI and other law enforcement personnel in recovering stolen checks and false identifications. Several stores also agreed to support the investigation by cashing the stolen checks, thus aiding the Bureau and other agencies in identifying members of the scheme.

“Fraud and identity theft crimes are a serious problem in Atlanta,” added the case agent. “Our combined efforts in this particular case serve as a warning to would-be criminals on the brink of preying on unsuspecting victims.”

Sentencing was announced on February 16, 2016 for 18 of the 19 Atlanta criminals convicted for their roles in the crime ring. The 19th and final defendant is scheduled to be sentenced in the near future.

- Press Release