Dorchester man gets 10 1/2 years in prison for role in scheme to defraud wealthy bank customers

A federal judge yesterday sentenced Charles Washington, 44, to 10 1/2 years in federal prison, and ordered him to pay $1.84 million in restitution for his role in a ring that managed to impersonate wealthy customers of local banks and transfer money to dummy accounts.

Washington pleaded guilty to one count of bank fraud conspiracy and four counts of bank fraud in August for his activities, which included defrauding customers of Citizens Bank and Santander Bank in Massachusetts and New Jersey of nearly $4 million.

According to the US Attorney's office:

Washington obtained bank account information, personally identifiable information, and sample signatures from bank customers with high balances. He then recruited runners to impersonate the account holders in order to make unauthorized withdrawals by obtaining and distributing fake driver’s licenses to the runners that bore the runners’ photographs with the account holders’ personal information. Washington instructed the runners on how to forge the victims’ signatures. To avoid detection, runners withdrew money from victims’ accounts at several different bank branches.

Washington and others also recruited runners to open bank accounts (known as drop accounts) in the name of non-existent businesses (known as shell business). The shell businesses were registered and named as if they were title companies, property management companies, contracting businesses, and other businesses for which incoming large-dollar wire transfers would not be unusual. Washington provided the shell businesses’ information to co-conspirators who made unauthorized wire transfers in the hundreds of thousands of dollars into the drop accounts. Once the drop accounts were funded with unauthorized wire transfers, Washington and the co-conspirators accompanied runners to bank branches to withdraw the money -- in cash, by check, or by wire transfers to other drop accounts -- before the victims of the unauthorized wire transfers realized that their accounts had been compromised.

In court documents, officials did not specify just how Washington and ring members Khary Jones and Alvin Reeves obtained customers' bank information and signatures, but the indictments against them refer to "bank employees who were not authorized to disclose information."

Washington's attorney had asked US District Court Judge to impose a sentence of no more than five years. He wrote Washington was a good family man - his only tattoos are the names of his wife and children - actually only netted a few thousand dollars from the scheme, that roughly half of the money allegedly stolen was still in bank accounts and that Washington was not actually a ringleader. And, he continued, the real ringleaders got much softer sentences. Alvin Reeves, who pleaded guilty to 11 counts related to the crimes, was sentenced to just 3 1/2 years, he wrote.

But Judge Mark Wolf sided with prosecutors, who said 10 1/2 years was a fair sentence, partly because the $1.8 million still unaccounted for - federal agents found just $4,000 in cash when they nabbed Washington - is a lot of money

But also, a prosecutor wrote, Washington has done this sort of thing before, if not to the same extent:

He was first convicted of larceny in 1999 for dispatching runners fake IDs to buy merchandise with counterfeit checks, an offense eerily similar to his offenses of conviction. He was convicted of larceny again in 2001, at age 27. At ages 29 and 30, two more convictions followed for dispatching runners to pass counterfeit checks at a Rockland Trust. At age 34, he was convicted again and sentenced to two years in prison for passing fraudulent Traveler’s Checks. Washington was then convicted of cocaine trafficking and sentenced to three years in prison - a conviction later vacated in April 2017.

There is accordingly ample reason to fear that Washington might return to fraud upon release, especially where he was on probation when he launched the scheme charged in the Indictment.

Washington was also convicted of cocaine trafficking, but had his three-year sentence overturned because the drugs in the case were tested by disgraced Massachusetts state chemist Annie Dookhan, the prosecutor's sentencing recommendation continues.





All Wells Fargo execs deserve long sentences...what? He's not a protected bank exec?

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and all execs have to pay

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and all execs have to pay back money to victims and jail..wait..

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Robin Hood is dead

The Robin Hood myth is hilariously popular given that people as a rule will go above and beyond to excuse rich people while making sure that anyone poorer than them stays poorer than them.

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Sounds like the rich people were victims here.

Are you victim blaming them for keeping their money in a bank?

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I think

You missed the point.

Robbing the rich doesn't make you a hero - you will be crushed. Robbing the poor? CEO!

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Perhaps you are unfamiliar with Robin Hood

He was a folklore hero in Britain who stole from the rich to, and this is the key part, gave to the poor.

Now I'll admit that there's no evidence that this schmo was actually engaging in wealth redistribution but my overall point was that crimes targeting the wealthy are always prosecuted and penalized much more aggressively than similar crimes again the poor. This guy is going to jail for 10 years. No-one from the banks who wrote fraudulent mortgages which bankrupted real people went to jail for a day.

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Oh - now I get it

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Although I disagree about those bankers - mostly the actual fraudulent mortgages were pulled off by very low level mortgage brokers. The bankers should have gone to jail, but there were no laws (and mostly still aren't) against some of what they pulled.

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Quite a track record

As someone who has never had as much as a speeding ticket in my 55 years, that's a pretty impressive run of conviction of crimes.

Larceny 1999
Larceny 2001
Counterfeit checks 2002 (est)
Counterfeit checks 2003 (est)
Counterfeit checks 2007 (est)
Cocaine trafficking 2014 (est)
Bank fraud 2018

Cocaine charge vacated due to evidence issues with Dookhan or Farak at MA State Lab in JP?

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Mark Wolf sucks

As a nonviolent offender this fellow should have got no more than 3 years.

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Welles Fargo did the same thing

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Wells Fargo did the same thing - to more than 3.5 MILLION people but wait - no one goes to jail, they get a bail out, the head of the company gets to retire a rich man. While I in no way defend this guys actions - rich people do this shit to poor people every day and get rewarded for it - but poor folk doing it to rich people - 10 years in jail!
1.2 million is CHUMP CHANGE.

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A lot more than $1M

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Wells Fargo was complicit in stealing $185M from customers. The company paid a fine, but no person who took bonuses for closing the extra fraudulent accounts was held accountable. In fact, they just fired the whole division. The problem was so large and institutionalized. I think it was about 5300 people that came to work on a Tuesday and they were nixed. No warning.

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Your math is a little bit off

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The punishment was a $185 million fine. The article you provide notes that $5 million in fees were charged to customers due to the unauthorized accounts being set up. Not quite the same as emptying people's accounts, but I will say that money was taken from customers, so there is a grain of truth there.

I'm not going to defend Wells Fargo, but I will say that the setup was quite a bit different than the Dorchester scam.

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You are correct totally

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You are correct totally different crimes. One blue collar swindler and his pal(s) stole from a few get 10 years in jail. ,
Wells Fargo execs institutionalized the process to steal from millions of people, open fake accounts under their names, ruined their credit. Exec gets no jail just golden parachute. yup. Totally different.

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The company did it. The company was punished.

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Unless someone saw a memo that said “open accounts in customers’ names without their consent so we can get fees from them” it would be tough to prosecute someone. I mean, who authorized this, or to put it another way who should be on trial?

You need evidence, proof, and a defendant to prosecute criminally. The bank paid restitution and a huge fine. Again I will note that none of the victims in this case will ever see their money again. The Wells Fargo victims were made whole.

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