LAWFUEL – The Law News Network – R. Alexander Acosta, United States …

LAWFUEL – The Law News Network – R. Alexander Acosta, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, William T. Sims, Special Agent in Charge, United States Secret Service, and Ken Jenne, Broward County Sheriff, announced today the arrests of nine (9) defendants based on the February 16, 2006, Indictment by a Ft. Lauderdale, Florida grand jury. The defendants, Michael Cates, Solomon Durham, Daniel Best, Brian Armbrister, Daniel Foland, Melissa Debooy, Tabitha Diaz, Ashley Robertson, and Milagros Garcia, were all participants in a highly organized bank fraud and identity theft scheme. They were charged with conspiracy to commit bank fraud, bank fraud, and aggravated identity theft. Defendant Michael Cates was individually charged with possession of false identification and production of false identification documents. The case has been assigned to United States District Court Judge Jose E. Martinez, in Miami, Florida.

If convicted on the conspiracy to commit bank fraud and the bank fraud charges, the defendants face a maximum statutory sentence of thirty (30) years’ imprisonment. In addition, the defendants face a mandatory two (2) year consecutive sentence on each count of aggravated identity theft. Michael Cates faces an additional maximum statutory sentence of fifteen (15) years’ imprisonment if convicted of the production of false identification documents and an additional maximum statutory sentence of five (5) years’ imprisonment if convicted of possession of false identification documents.

As alleged in the Indictment, the defendants uttered and cashed fraudulent checks at various South Florida banks using false and fraudulent identification. As the leader of the organization, Michael Cates would produce counterfeit and fraudulent checks and identification documents, which were then used by “check cashers” in his organization, defendants Solomon Durham, Daniel Foland, Melissa Debooy, Tabitha Diaz, Ashley Robertson, and Milagros Garcia. These “check cashers” had all been recruited by defendant Daniel Best, and would cash checks drawn on the accounts of unsuspecting individuals and businesses, by using false identification documents. After the funds were obtained, each defendant would receive a share of the proceeds. Ultimately, the participants in the scheme defrauded various South Florida banks out of approximately $800,000.

Mr. Acosta commended the investigative efforts of the United States Secret Service’s South Florida Organized Fraud Task Force and the Economic Crimes Bureau of the Broward Sheriff’s Office. In addition, Mr. Acosta thanked the various financial institutions, including Bank of America, Wachovia Bank, and SunTrust Bank, for their assistance during the investigation of this matter. This case is being prosecuted by Special Assistant United States Attorney Marc Anton.

A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls . Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on .

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