FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, April 20, 2017
Two Defendants Charged with Stealing Over $375,000 from Banks
In Money Order Forgery Scheme
Defendants Allegedly Deposited Forged Money Orders
And Withdrew Funds Before Banks Discovered the Forgeries
Acting Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez today announced that two Brooklyn residents have been indicted on charges of grand larceny, criminal possession of forged instruments and related charges for forging United States Postal Service and Western Union money orders, depositing them into banks and withdrawing funds before the banks discovered that the money orders were fraudulent. In total, the defendants allegedly stole over $375,000 from three financial institutions.
Acting District Attorney Gonzalez said, “These defendants allegedly carried out an elaborate scheme to systematically steal hundreds of thousands of dollars. Financial crimes of this scale not only hurt our banks – they undermine the public’s trust in institutions we all rely upon for our livelihoods and our economy. I am determined that these two individuals be brought to justice for their alleged criminal actions.”
Postal Service Inspector in Charge Philip R. Bartlett said, “These individuals must have thought no one would catch on to their criminal activity. Let me be clear that when you misuse and damage the US Postal Service brand by using the Postal Money Order to steal from financial institutions, Postal Inspectors and their law enforcement partners will aggressively investigate these crimes and bring you to justice for your illegal activities.”
The Acting District Attorney identified the defendants as Jkwon Roney, 26, an alleged GS9 gang member, and Shanaya Nelson, 29, both of Brooklyn. The defendants were charged with first-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument, second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument, third-degree grand larceny and criminal possession of forgery devices. Defendant Roney also was charged with second-degree grand larceny. Roney was arraigned yesterday before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun and was ordered held on $1 million bail. Nelson was arraigned before Judge Chun today and was ordered held on $10,000 bail.
The Acting District Attorney said that, according to the indictment, from approximately April 24, 2013 to January 6, 2017, the defendants allegedly engaged in a scheme to deposit forged United States Postal Service (USPS) money orders and forged Western Union (WU) money orders into accounts held at Bank of America, TD Bank and Citibank in Brooklyn and elsewhere, and then withdrew funds before the banks discovered the money orders were forged. In all instances included in the indictment either the bank deposits were made in Brooklyn, the bank accounts were opened in Brooklyn, the bank withdrawals were made in Brooklyn or the deposited money orders were unlawfully obtained in Brooklyn.
According to the indictment, to carry out the alleged scheme the defendants initially would steal money orders with no value or purchase money orders with low face values – from $1 to $6 – and then forge the money orders to reflect large face values of up to $1,000.
The defendants also allegedly took advantage of the common practice among financial institutions, including Bank of America, TD Bank, and Citibank, to permit funds from deposited instruments, such as checks or money orders, to be available to customers within a short time of deposit even if the deposited instrument had not yet cleared with the issuer. If the money order or check should fail to clear, and funds had already been used by the customer, then the banks incur losses when the customer does not repay the banks for the overdraft.
According to the indictment, from approximately February 10, 2016 to March 3, 2016, 111 USPS money orders were allegedly purchased as part of the scheme for face value amounts of between $1 and $6 from a single post office in Williamsburg, After purchase, most of these money orders were forged to reflect a $1,000 face value and deposited into approximately 20 accounts at Bank of America and TD Bank. Roney either purchased or deposited approximately 94 of these money orders. The funds from the deposited money orders were withdrawn or transferred from these accounts before the banks discovered the forgeries.
Further, according to the indictment, on September 26, 2016, in Oklahoma, Roney allegedly deposited 45 forged WU money orders into three different Bank of America accounts, all within a two-hour period. After the deposits, money was withdrawn or transferred from these Bank of America accounts. All three Bank of America accounts were opened in Brooklyn – two of them just days prior to the deposits.
In addition to the three banks, the defendants allegedly also used Community Financial, a retail check-cashing company, to cash money orders as part of their scheme.
According to the indictment, from approximately April 24, 2013 to June 7, 2014, Roney and Nelson allegedly cashed USPS money orders at Community Financial that were purchased with debit cards linked to bank accounts in which forged money orders were deposited. Specifically, these money orders were purchased using debit cards linked to a total of 22 accounts at Bank of America and Citibank that had forged USPS and WU money order deposits made the same day, or immediately before, the purchase of the cashed money orders. In one instance, both defendants separately cashed money orders at Community Financial that were bought with a debit card linked to the same Bank of America account. This account received forged WU money order deposits made earlier that day.
Finally, according to the indictment, from approximately April 8, 2014 to January 6, 2017, Roney allegedly deposited forged USPS and WU money orders into 13 additional accounts at Bank of America and then withdrew the money before Bank of America discovered that the deposits were forgeries. Regarding at least two of the accounts, Roney deposited the forged USPS money orders in Brooklyn.
Over the course of the scheme, the defendants allegedly stole approximately $306,498; $61,200 and $9,000 from Bank of America, Citibank and TD Bank, respectively, with a total of $376,698.
The case was investigated by United States Postal Inspection Service Inspector Joseph Marcus.
The case was investigated by, and is being prosecuted by, Senior Assistant District Attorney Ron Carny and Assistant District Attorney Paul Wooten, both of the District Attorney’s Frauds Bureau, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Dana Roth, Deputy Chief, and the overall supervision of Assistant District Attorney Patricia McNeill, Deputy Chief of the Investigations Division.
An indictment is an accusatory instrument and not proof of a defendant’s guilt.