(STL.News) Six men were charged in an indictment unsealed on Wednesday for their alleged participation in a nation-wide scheme to defraud dozens of businesses across the United States of luxury goods and services announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling of the District of Massachusetts.
Antonio Strong, 28, Herbert Wright, 24, Joseph Williams, 28, Steven Hayes Jr., 27, Demario Sorrells, 34, and Terrence Bender, 28, all from the greater Chicago, Illinois area, were charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. In addition, Strong was charged with nine counts of aggravated identity theft and four counts of wire fraud; Williams was charged with three counts of aggravated identity theft; Wright, Bender, and Hayes were each charged with two counts of aggravated identity theft; and Sorrells was charged with one count of aggravated identity theft.
On Sept. 14, 2020, Strong was arrested and detained by a federal judge in the Northern District of Illinois; on Nov. 24, 2020, Williams self-surrendered in the Northern District of Illinois and was released on bond; on Nov. 19, 2020, Sorrells and Hayes were arrested in the Northern District of Illinois and released on bond; on Dec. 2, 2020, Bender self-surrendered in the Northern District of Georgia and was released on bond; and Wright self-surrendered today in the Central District of California. The defendants will make an initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Katherine A. Robertson in the District of Massachusetts on Dec. 7, 2020.
The indictment alleges that the defendants, often presenting themselves as musicians and promoters, engaged in a nation-wide scheme to defraud businesses and individuals across the United States of goods and services by using fraudulently obtained credit card account information. These goods and services included trips on private jets, private yacht charters, private chef and security guard services, designer puppies, limousine and chauffer services, and commercial airlines flights, among other things. The defendants allegedly used pseudonyms, including the names of other real persons, and purported to be from real and fictitious businesses to perpetuate the scheme and for the conspiracy to avoid detection from law enforcement.
The indictment further alleges that, because the defendants provided authentic credit card information, the defrauded businesses and individuals processed the transactions and provided the goods and services. When the actual payment cardholders challenged the transactions as fraudulent, the individuals and businesses who provided the goods and services consequently suffered losses.
An indictment is merely an allegation and all defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
This case was investigated by the U.S. Secret Service Boston Field Office. Trial Attorneys Michelle Pascucci and Andrew Tyler of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Breslow of the District of Massachusetts are prosecuting the case. The Justice Department also acknowledges and thanks the FBI’s Chicago Field Office and the Chicago Police Department for their assistance with this matter.