North Carolina Man Sentenced in Maryland to 18 Months in Federal Prison for Bank Fraud Scheme Involving $529,000 in Stolen Altered Postal Service Money Orders
Greenbelt, Maryland – U.S. District Judge Paula Xinis sentenced Vantino Johnson, age 23, of Charlotte, North Carolina, in Maryland today to 18 months in federal prison, followed by five years of supervised release on the federal charges of bank fraud conspiracy and bank fraud, in connection with a scheme to negotiate stolen altered postal service money orders at victim financial institutions. Judge Xinis ordered that Johnson pay restitution in the full amount of the victims’ losses, $272,087.19.
The sentence was announced by Acting United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Jonathan F. Lenzner and Postal Inspector in Charge Peter R. Rendina of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service – Washington Division.
According to his guilty plea, between May and October 2019, Johnson and others conspired to defraud victim financial institutions by negotiating stolen and fraudulent postal money orders. Specifically, Johnson admitted that he and his co-conspirators stole money orders from post offices in Maryland and North Carolina, then altered the stolen money orders to reflect being issued for $800 or $1,000. Johnson and his co-defendants then deposited the stolen and altered money orders into bank accounts that had been opened at the victim financial institutions in the names of identity theft victims, using those victims’ means of identification without their knowledge or permission.
On October 17, 2019, law enforcement executed search warrants at two residences in North Carolina associated with Johnson and at a residence in Waldorf associated with Beamon. A search of Johnson’s residences as well as his vehicle recovered: receipts showing the deposit of stolen postal money orders; debit cards for bank accounts that were opened in a number of victims; money orders stolen from various post offices; stolen and altered money orders; blank paper printed with amounts, issue dates, and post office zip codes; and a loaded firearm.
A search of the Waldorf residence associated with Beamon recovered: a stolen postal arrow key used to open United States Postal Service collection boxes; checks that were stolen from the mail; blank paper printed displaying amounts, issue dates, and post office zip codes; and approximately 37 postal money orders. Law enforcement also seized nine firearms from Beamon’s residence, including one AR-15 style ghost gun assault rifle, firearms with extended magazines, and approximately 553 rounds of various ammunition.
As detailed in their respective plea agreements, between May and October 2019, in Maryland and North Carolina, Johnson deposited 61 fraudulent postal money orders into at least 12 bank accounts that had been opened using the identification of at least 11 separate individuals. Beamon deposited 34 fraudulent postal money orders into at least 6 bank accounts that had been opened using the identification of at least 5 separate individuals. During the course of the conspiracy, it was foreseeable to Johnson and Beamon that the conspirators negotiated $529,000 in stolen money orders. At least $150,200 was negotiated into accounts controlled by Johnson, and at least $124,800 was negotiated into accounts controlled by Beamon.
Johnson’s co-conspirator, Remy Beamon, age 24, of Waldorf, Maryland, pleaded guilty to federal charges for a bank fraud conspiracy and for bank fraud, as well as for being a felon in possession of a firearm and was sentenced on February 18, 2021, to 51 months in federal prison.
Acting United States Attorney Jonathan F. Lenzner commended the U.S. Postal Inspection Service for its work in the investigation. Mr. Lenzner thanked Assistant U.S. Rajeev Raghavan, who prosecuted the case.