Woman Targets Credit Unions in Elaborate ID Fraud Scheme
A Bowie, Md. woman is spending the next six years of her life in prison after she used an elaborate ID fraud scheme that primarily targeted credit unions and led to financial losses.
Tonia Latrice Lewis was sentenced to serve a 70-month prison sentence last month in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va. Federal Judge Claude Hilton was also ordered Lewis to pay restitution of nearly $250,000. Federal prosecutors said Lewis sought more than $600,000 in loans and financing. Lewis was convicted for bank fraud, mail fraud and aggravated identify theft.
According to court documents and evidence presented at her trial, Lewis, 47, obtained the identities of dozens of victims and used them to open credit union accounts and apply for loans and lines of credit in the names of the victims, without their knowledge or consent.
She submitted more than 30 loan or line of credit applications at the $22 billion Pentagon Federal Credit Union in Alexandria, Va., the $495 million Lafayette Federal Credit Union in Rockville, Md., the $215 million U.S. Postal Service Federal Credit Union in Clinton, Md., the $178 million Department of Interior Federal Credit Union in Washington, D.C., the $47 million District of Columbia Teachers Federal Credit Union in Washington, D.C., the $3 billion Tower Federal Credit Union in Laurel, Md., and the $369 million Signal Financial Federal Credit Union in Kensington, Md., according to court documents. Lewis also hit M&T Bank and Arundel Federal Savings Bank.
Federal prosecutors said Lewis took sophisticated steps to perpetrate the years-long scheme and conceal her identity.
She targeted financial institutions that allowed her to apply for loans and submit back-up documentation online so that her image would not be caught on surveillance video. Lewis fabricated a variety of documents to substantiate the loan applications and stolen identities, including paystubs and driver’s licenses. She also paid to run detailed credit reports and credit checks on her victims, which gave her access to extensive personal identifiable information, which enabled her to pass some of the security check put in place by the credit unions.
After she became a member of the credit unions using fake IDs, she opened checking and savings accounts and obtained more than 10 loans or lines of credit. Prosecutors said Lewis made more than 20 additional attempts to get loans or lines of credit that failed, however.
Many of the financial institutions were able to identify additional fraudulent applications linked to Lewis through IP address information, email addresses, aliases used and other contact information, federal prosecutors said in court documents.
Her scheme also included creating fake email accounts, purchasing burner phones that were used as the contact numbers on the fraudulent applications, and routing the victims’ mail to be forwarded to vacant or abandoned properties.
When Lewis went to a branch to withdraw funds from the fraudulent accounts, she often wore clothing such as hats, glasses, or scarves that obscured her face. She also covered up surveillance cameras with aluminum foil, according to prosecutors.
Lewis sought more than $600,000 in loans and financing, and her actions caused actual losses of $249,858. Lewis used the stolen funds to buy jewelry, clothing, and she gambled away some of the money at a West Virginia casino.