ALEXANDRIA, Va. (WHSV) — Four men from Virginia and Maryland pleaded guilty in court on Tuesday to defrauding banks out of at least a million dollars.
According to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Virginia, 32-year-old Caesar Adigwe, of Charlottesville; 31-year-old Chea Yarl, of Hyattsville, Md.; 31-year-old Samuel Smith, of Hagerstown, Md.; and 32-year-old Thomas Gherense, of Laurel, Md. all pleaded guilty on Feb. 18.
The Department of Justice says the four men worked together to defraud financial institutions through Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. from 2013 to 2019.
Prosecutors said they deposited counterfeit checks into bank accounts belonging to third parties and then made cash withdrawals or purchased money orders with debit cards associated with those accounts.
It's what attorneys call a "card-cracking" scheme, and the four men produced at least 300 counterfeit checks in six years, opening numerous business accounts using fake IDs and causing a total loss of at least $1 million.
Yarl pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, one count of bank fraud, and one count of aggravated identity theft, and faces a mandatory minimum of two years in prison and a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison when sentenced on June 12.
Adigwe, Gherense, and Smith each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and each face a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison. Smith and Gherense are scheduled to be sentenced on June 5. Adigwe is scheduled to be sentenced on June 19.
A federal district court judge will determine their final sentences.
U.S. District Judge Liam O'Grady accepted the pleas. Assistant U.S. Attorney Kellen S. Dwyer and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Rachael C. Tucker prosecuted the case.