NEWARK, N.J. – A Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, woman admitted today that she participated in a scheme to defraud banks by using stolen and altered identities to fraudulently obtain credit cards and then using those cards to make more than $2.5 million in charges that were never repaid, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced.
Fatou Djambo, 37, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Madeline Cox Arleo in Newark federal court to an information charging her with one count of conspiring to defraud financial institutions and one count of aggravated identity theft.
Djambo was originally charged with this conduct in a criminal complaint filed May 22, 2018, along with Talat Ali Maan, 44, of Germantown, Maryland; Syed Rehman, 51, of Jersey City, New Jersey; Kashif Idrees, 36, of Germantown, Maryland; and Jaheed Wahed Ahmed, 54, of Jersey City, New Jersey. Ahmed pleaded guilty to bank fraud conspiracy and aggravated identity theft before Judge Arleo on Jan. 9, 2019. The charges against Maan, Rehman, and Idrees remain pending. Idrees is not in custody, and is a fugitive.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
The defendants engaged in a scheme to use stolen and fraudulently altered identities to obtain credit cards from banks and then use those credit cards to make purchases that they had no intention to repay, leaving the banks to bear the losses. The defendants stole the identities of actual people and then, in many cases, created “synthetic identities” by pairing the name and Social Security number for an actual person with a fictitious birth date. When creating the synthetic identities, the defendants often used the name and Social Security number of an actual minor and combined them with a fictitious birth date that made the identity appear to be that of an adult.
The defendants used the stolen and synthetic identities to obtain lines of credit, primarily through opening credit card accounts at banks. The fraudulently obtained credit cards were maintained in good standing with the banks long enough to establish creditworthiness. The defendants then “busted out” the cards by making large purchases and never repaying the debts associated with those purchases.
The defendants also incorporated and registered in various states numerous purported companies that did little or no legitimate business. They obtained credit card processing equipment by opening merchant processing accounts in the names of the sham companies, and then used that equipment to make fraudulent charges on the fraudulent credit cards.
Djambo’s role included arranging for individuals to obtain genuine, but fraudulently obtained, Pennsylvania driver’s licenses, a service for which Maan and Rehman paid her. Djambo also secured addresses in the Philadelphia area to which Maan and Rehman could direct mail containing fraudulently obtained credit cards and other items relating to the scheme. Djambo collected and delivered that mail to conspirators in Jersey City, among other locations.
The charge of conspiring to defraud financial institutions carries a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense. The aggravated identity theft charges carries a mandatory penalty of two years in prison, which must run consecutively to any other term of imprisonment imposed, and an up to $250,000 fine.
U.S. Attorney Carpenito credited special agents of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, under the direction of Inspector in Charge James V. Buthorn, with the investigation leading to today’s guilty plea.
The charges in the complaint are merely allegations, and Maan, Rehman, and Idrees are presumed to be innocent unless and until convicted.
The government is represented by First Assistant U.S. Attorney Rachael A. Honig.
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