Court-appointed lawyers are victims of stolen check schemes, prosecutors say; 6 people charged
Six people have been charged with depositing stolen checks intended to pay court-appointed lawyers representing indigent defendants in federal cases in New York. (Image from Shutterstock)
Six people have been charged with depositing stolen checks intended to pay court-appointed lawyers representing indigent defendants in federal cases in New York.
The charges are part of an ongoing investigation into “the widespread theft and depositing of checks” issued to people involved in the criminal justice system, according to a Feb. 7 press release by U.S. Attorney Breon Peace of the Eastern District of New York.
The six defendants are charged in two separate indictments unsealed in Brooklyn, New York City, on Wednesday.
In one case, three defendants were charged with bank fraud and bank fraud conspiracy in connection with the deposit of a $125,386 check issued to a lawyer with offices in Brooklyn, New York City. One of the defendants, Ada Tavarez, is also charged with one count of aggravated identity theft.
Prosecutors allege that Tavarez deposited the check into a fraudulent bank account that she created in the attorney’s name using a fake driver’s license and Social Security card, according to the press release and indictment. The signature on the check was forged, according to prosecutors.
A second defendant, Markel Washington, allegedly accessed the account online and called the bank seeking a release of funds when the check was placed on hold. His iCloud account also had photos of Tavarez that were used on the fraudulent driver’s license, the indictment said.
A third defendant, Tyquan Robinson, is accused of accessing an email account in the attorney’s name that was used to open the bank account. The recovery phone number for the account was Robinson’s, prosecutors alleged. His iCloud account also had a note containing personal data for the attorney, prosecutors said.
Tavarez, 58, lives in the Bronx, New York City; Robinson, 29, lives in East Orange, New Jersey; and Washington, 28, lives in the Bronx, New York City.
In a second case, three defendants are accused of participating in a scheme to cash checks issued to third parties. One stolen check was issued to a lawyer for indigent defendants in the amount of $14,856. The check was deposited into an account opened by one of the defendants with a fake endorsement signing it over to him.
The defendants are accused of withdrawing some of the money from ATMs, using it for purchases at stores and restaurants, and using it to buy airline tickets.
One of the defendants was not identified because he wasn’t yet arrested. The others are Nicholas Barton, 27, of Brooklyn, New York City; and Richard Reid, 26, of New York City. They are charged with wire fraud, bank fraud and conspiracy to commit those crimes.