Six Los Angeles Residents Charged in Bank Fraud Scheme Where Stolen Identities Were Used to Establish Lines of Credit
Six people have been taken into federal custody for their roles in an identity theft scheme that defrauded banks out of more than $3 million, announced Steven Martinez, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI in Los Angeles, and André Birotte Jr., United States Attorney in Los Angeles.
On May 4, a federal grand jury in Los Angeles returned a 29-count indictment charging the following six individuals in connection with the scheme:
- Andrea Lorraine Avery,44, of Los Angeles, California;
- Kirkland Charles, 46, of Beverly Hills, California;
- William Earl Gordon, 59, of Little Rock, Arkansas;
- Bill James Releford, 51 of Los Angeles;
- Annita Hawes, 46, of Los Angeles, California; and
- James Arthur Booker, 37, of Carson, California.
According to the indictment, Avery and her co-defendants operated a scheme to defraud financial institutions by using stolen identities of people with good credit scores to establish lines of credit and then used the money for personal expenses.
Avery and her associates allegedly carried out the fraud by obtaining stolen personal identifying information, including dates of birth, Social Security numbers, credit profiles, FICO scores, and driver’s license numbers, to complete fraudulent applications for business lines of credit at Bank of America and Wells Fargo Bank.
The stolen identities were also used to create bogus corporate officers of shell corporations that did not exist. The defendants allegedly concocted profits for the bogus businesses in each of the applications and transmitted false tax documents relative to the non-existent revenue to make it appear as though the businesses were operational, according to the indictment.
The defendants created fake offices by renting virtual office space and by installing rental equipment. They also recruited co-conspirators to pose as employees in office fronts in order to convince bank employees that the corporations were legitimate during on-site inspections.
Once the applications were approved by the banks, funds were deposited into corporate bank accounts that were linked to the credit lines, usually in the amount of $100,000 each. Within a few days, the defendants liquidated the credit lines by issuing checks payable to the defendants for their personal use.
Avery received between 10 to 15 percent of each credit line. The remainder was shared among the other defendants and used to pay for the rental expenses of the phony office space. The defendants fraudulently opened and drained more than 70 credit lines through this scheme.
The indictment charges all of the defendants with bank fraud. Avery is also charged with making false statements to the banks. Avery, Releford, Charles, and Gordon are also charged with aiding and abetting the false statements.
Five of the defendants made an initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles and were allowed to post bail. Avery was arrested this morning and will have an initial appearance in Los Angeles this afternoon.
If convicted on all counts, the defendants face maximum statutory sentences ranging from 750 years to 870 years.
An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.
This case was investigated by agents with the FBI, the United States Postal Inspection Service, and the Internal Revenue Service; Criminal Investigative Division. The case will be prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office.