NEWARK, N.J. – A Union County, New Jersey, man admitted his role in a scheme to receive stolen credit cards and pandemic relief debit cards sent through the mail, commit bank fraud, and defraud the U.S. Postal Service and the U.S. Department of the Treasury, U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger announced today.
Justin Brooks, 23, of Vauxhall, New Jersey, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Claire C. Cecchi on March 15, 2023, to three counts of an indictment charging him with: one count of conspiracy to commit mail theft and bank fraud, and to defraud the U.S. Postal Service and U.S. Department of the Treasury; one count of receiving stolen mail; and one count of bank fraud.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
From July 2019 to Oct. 6, 2020, Books and his conspirators obtained credit cards stolen from the U.S. mail from a U.S. Postal Service letter carrier, fraudulently activated those credit cards, and then used those credit cards to make and attempt to make purchases without the cardholders’ authorization. The victims have incurred approximately $70,000 in losses from fraudulent purchases made using their stolen credit cards. Brooks also schemed to fraudulently use over $13,000 of funds pre-loaded onto Economic Impact Payment (EIP) cards issued by the U.S. Department of Treasury and sent in the U.S. mail pursuant to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), that were also stolen from the mail. The CARES Act authorized EIP payments structured as one-time refundable tax credits to certain eligible taxpayers of $1,200 for individuals, $2,400 for married couples filing jointly, and up to $500 for each qualifying child. The goal of this part of their fraud was for the conspirators to unlawfully obtain the government funds pre-loaded onto these cards.
The conspiracy and possession of mail theft charges are each punishable by a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison and a maximum fine of up to $250,000. The bank fraud charge is punishable by a maximum potential penalty of 30 years in prison and a maximum fine of up to $1 million. Sentencing is scheduled for July 20, 2023.
Brooks originally was charged with Jarid Brooks, 29, Kyle Williams, 37, and Kyjuan Hutchins, 23, also of Vauxhall, in October 2020. Jarid Brooks’ case is pending before Judge Cecchi, and he is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. Williams has pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit access device fraud and was sentenced. Hutchins has pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit access device fraud and is awaiting sentencing.
U.S. Attorney Sellinger credited postal inspectors of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service in Newark, under the direction of Postal Inspector in Charge Damon Wood, Philadelphia Division; special agents with the U.S. Postal Service – Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Matthew Modafferi, Northeast Area Field Office; and special agents with the Office of the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Andrew McKay, with the investigation leading to today’s guilty plea. He also thanked the Union County Prosecutor’s Office, the Caldwell Police Department, the Fairfield Police Department, the Boonton Police Department, and the Millburn Police Department for their assistance.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Elaine K. Lou, Chief of the Opioid Abuse Prevention and Enforcement Unit of the Criminal Division in Newark.