Baltimore, Maryland – Nicholas Milano White, age 29, of Baltimore, Maryland, pleaded guilty today to the federal charges of conspiracy to steal mail, emergency benefits fraud, and aggravated identity theft.
The guilty plea was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Robert K. Hur; Postal Inspector in Charge Peter R. Rendina of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service – Washington Division; Special Agent in Charge Bo Keane of the United States Secret Service – Baltimore Field Office; and Chief Melissa R. Hyatt of the Baltimore County Police Department.
“It is crucial that funds available under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act go to those who have been hardest hit by this global pandemic,” said U.S. Attorney Robert K. Hur. “My office and the entire law enforcement community are committed to bringing to justice fraudsters who are stealing taxpayer funds and preying on citizens during this unprecedented public health crisis to personally benefit by stealing victims’ money and personal identifying information.”
According to his guilty plea, between October 2019 and June 2020, White conspired to and engaged in various fraud schemes, theft of mail, counterfeiting of U.S. currency, production and possession of false identification documents and credit profiles, unemployment insurance fraud, and illegal possession of firearms and ammunition.
White admits that on October 11, 2019, he submitted a fraudulent application for financing to purchase a 2016 Maserati Ghibli vehicle. The credit application listed a false social security number for White and false employment and income information for White and his co-applicant. White also arranged to have fake paystubs created for attachment to the credit application as verification of his income. As a result, White secured financing of $30,227 to purchase the vehicle.
As detailed in his plea agreement, in February and March 2020, White devised schemes to defraud banks and to steal money from individuals by negotiating checks stolen from the United States mail. White and his co-conspirators, at White’s direction, stole mail from collection boxes in the Baltimore area. White then altered the stolen checks and deposited them into bank accounts he controlled and that had been opened for that purpose. On March 8, 2020, law enforcement was able to monitor the movements of White and his co-conspirators through a GPS tracking device installed in a parcel stolen from the collection box at the Rosedale Post Office in Baltimore County. The conspirators’ movements were tracked to several other post offices and collection boxes in Baltimore County where they continued to steal mail. When Baltimore County Police officers approached, the conspirators fled in a white sedan registered to one of White’s co-conspirators. Officers located the van in a residential area of Pikesville, Maryland. The vehicle was unoccupied and gloves, trash bags, and approximately 358 pieces of unprocessed U.S. mail were on the ground outside the vehicle. Law enforcement found and arrested White at a nearby location with a co-conspirator and seized cell phones and USB storage devices from White. White was released from custody following his arrest. There were at least 136 postal customers whose mail was stolen. Approximately 48 victims reported that their stolen mail contained bank checks or other financial instruments totaling $48,938 in value.
A search warrant was subsequently executed on the cell phones and other electronic media seized from White. The cell phones contained text messages about White creating fake credit profiles and false identification documents for himself and others, and conducting fraudulent bank transactions, as well as the personal identifying information (PII) of identity theft victims. White’s phones also contained credit card “dumps,” lists of sensitive information pertaining to at least 1,100 credit cards issued to other persons that could be used to create counterfeit copies of the cards. White had downloaded these lists from websites that illegally marketed and distributed them. White’s cell phones also revealed Internet searches for business and personal check refills, a credit card dump website and a personal data broker website, and photos of numerous stolen checks, among other things. Law enforcement also recovered text messages in which White negotiated prices for the purchase of multiple firearms. A search of White’s USB devices recovered images of U.S. currency in various denominations, which White admitted were used and/or intended to produce counterfeit U.S. currency. In at least one exchange of text messages, White attempted to sell $5,000 of counterfeit currency to another person, at one point claiming that he had purchased firearms with counterfeit currency.
Following White’s release from custody in March 2020, he continued to engage in fraud by submitting a false claim for Florida state unemployment benefits through the Internet in the name of a real person, using the victim’s personal information, but providing a false mailing address in Baltimore. As a result of this false application, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) issued at least two checks payable to the victim totaling $875 and mailed them to the Baltimore address. The victim, a resident of Florida was later contacted by Florida DEO and confirmed that the claim had been submitted without her knowledge or permission.
In addition, on a date no earlier than May 1, 2020, White unlawfully acquired an Economic Impact Payment (EIP) check issued by the U.S. Treasury and authorized under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The EIP check, in the amount of $2,900, was intended for the benefit of M.H. and M.I., a married couple residing in Maryland. The EIP check had been placed in the mail and addressed to the former home address of the couple in Baltimore. On June 23, 2020, White fraudulently negotiated the stolen check by endorsing it with the forged signature of M.H. and depositing it into a bank account fraudulently opened on June 14, 2020, in M.H.’s name and using his social security number and date of birth.
On June 24, 2020, law enforcement executed search warrants at White’s residence and at another address used by White, and conducted a consent search of a storage unit used by White, all in Baltimore. Law enforcement recovered the following items: the stolen EIP check issued to M.H. and M.I.; two fake driver’s licenses listing M.H.’s name and former address, but each displaying a different person’s face; two debit cards issued in the name of M.H.; stolen mail pieces and sensitive financial documents belonging to multiple victims; several blank checks issued for a trust account; numerous fake photo identification cards; counterfeit U.S. currency; fraudulently altered money orders; credit and debit cards displaying different names, at least one of which was determined to be counterfeit; equipment used to print counterfeit currency, create counterfeit credit cards, and fabricate false identification cards, as well as check stock intended to fabricate blank checks and money orders; a .45-caliber pistol; a 9mm pistol with a 50-round-capacity magazine; two .223 caliber high-capacity magazines; and several rounds of ammunition.
Two cell phones and a desktop computer were seized and subsequently searched pursuant to federal search warrants. One of the phones was found to contain notes listing individuals’ names and identifying information, including M.H., as well as a U.S. Postal Inspector who was involved in the investigation of White’s mail thefts and arrest on March 8, 2020. Information stored on White’s desktop computer revealed a search of the Postal Inspector’s name on a personal data broker website on March 14, 2020, following White’s release from custody.
As part of his plea agreement, White will be required to pay restitution in the full amount of the victims’ losses, which the parties have stipulated is no more than $50,000. In addition, White will forfeit his interest in the following items seized during searches in March and June 2020: firearms, ammunition, and firearms magazines; laptop and desktop computers; cell phones; electronic storage devices; blank plastic cards with magnetic strips and/or chips; blank checks and check stock; printers; embossing machines; and magnetic stripe reader/writers or encoders.
White and the government have agreed that, if the Court accepts the plea agreement, White will be sentenced to between five and eight years in federal prison. U.S. District Judge Richard D. Bennett has scheduled sentencing for March 11, 2021 at 10:00 a.m.
Charges remain pending against two co-conspirators, Dominic Jerry Robinson, age 26, of Baltimore, and Cedric Jonathan McNeal-Parker, age 29, of Randallstown, Maryland. An individual charged by indictment is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty at some later criminal proceedings.
United States Attorney Robert K. Hur commended the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the U.S. Secret Service, and the Baltimore County Police Department for their work in the investigation and thanked the Office of the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration for its assistance. Mr. Hur thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew J. Maddox, who is prosecuting the federal case.