Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman announced that 21 people were indicted today for their alleged roles in a scheme in which they took cash advances at Atlantic City casinos against phony checks deposited into TD Bank accounts. They allegedly took advantage of TD Bank’s policy of making funds available the same day a check is deposited, stealing a total of $88,796 from the bank.
The Division of Criminal Justice today obtained a six-count indictment from the Atlantic County grand jury charging the alleged ringleader of the scheme, Michael Williams, 35, of Sickerville, N.J., with second-degree counts of conspiracy, money laundering and theft by deception. The other 20 defendants are each charged with third-degree counts of conspiracy, money laundering and theft by deception.
The charges are the result of an investigation by the New Jersey State Police Casino Investigation Financial Crimes Unit and the Division of Criminal Justice Specialized Crimes Bureau.
It is alleged that Williams recruited the other defendants to either open a new TD Bank account or use their existing TD Bank account to conduct the scheme. After the account was opened or the account holder agreed to allow an existing account to be used, Williams allegedly would deposit a bad check into the account. The new accounts were opened with small deposits ranging from $2 to $30. The bad checks were written for between $4,900 and $4,995. One day after the bad check was deposited into the account, the account holder allegedly withdrew most of the funds through a Global Cash Access cash advance transaction in either the Bally’s Casino or the Borgata Casino in Atlantic City. The scheme was possible because TD Bank offered same-day availability of funds on checks deposited, so the funds were withdrawn before TD Bank was notified that the check was bad. It is alleged that Williams stole a total of $88,796 in concert with the other defendants. Williams allegedly permitted the other defendants to keep a small share of the stolen money in return for their participation in the scheme.
“We charge that Williams systematically exploited this bank’s customer-friendly policy, stealing several thousand dollars with each person he recruited into his criminal scheme,” said Acting Attorney General Hoffman. “Fortunately, his greed caught up with him when the bank detected his pattern of fraud and reported it to the New Jersey State Police.”
“As customers, we all value the convenience of electronic banking services, but those technologies also afford opportunities for crooks like Williams and his confederates to steal,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “By aggressively prosecuting defendants like these, we are working to deter this type of fraud, which can harm individuals as well as businesses.”
Deputy Attorney Yvonne G. Maher presented the case to the grand jury for Casino Prosecutions Unit with the Division of Criminal Justice Specialized Crimes Bureau. Detective Sgt. 1st Class Andrew Koch was the lead detective for the New Jersey State Police Casino Investigations Financial Crimes Unit.
The indictment charges the following 20 additional defendants with participating in the criminal scheme:
- Edward Smith, 31, of Clementon, N.J.,
- Jennifer Gathers, 35, of Bridgeton, N.J.,
- Antwan Cannon, 30, of Clementon, N.J.,
- Armissa Williams, 37, of Lindenwold, N.J.,
- Jose Ramos, 24, of Lindenwold, N.J.,
- Anais Ramos, 26, of Lindenwold, N.J.,
- Tidarat Johnson, 43, of Runnemede, N.J.,
- Neil Miller, 65, of Clementon, N.J.,
- Johnny Swain, 55, of Lindenwold, N.J.,
- Saleem Brown, 36, of Philadelphia, Pa.,
- Jennifer Polidoro, 30, of Pine Hill, N.J.,
- Mark Harley, 44, of Clementon, N.J.,
- Gail Whitner, 52, of Philadelphia, Pa.,
- William Taylor, 32, of Somerdale, N.J.,
- Lebaron Harvey, 33, of Camden, N.J.,
- Eric Puriefoy, 51, of Berlin, N.J.,
- Christina Honey, 30, of Pennsauken, N.J.,
- Santa Santiago, 34, of Vineland, N.J.,
- James Burch, 60, of Lindenwold, N.J., and
- Barry Ettore, 54, of West Berlin, N.J.
Second-degree charges carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a criminal fine of up to $150,000, while third-degree crimes carry a sentence of three to five years in state prison and a fine of up to $15,000. The charges are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.