Feds Establish Task Force After String of Thefts, Large Losses
ATLANTA, GA – DEBORAH FAMBRO-ECHOLS, 49, of Hapeville, Georgia, WENDY B. FRASIER, 34, of Atlanta, Georgia, DARALYN M. WEAVER, 30, of Atlanta, Georgia, JABRIL O. McKEE, 24, of Fairburn, Georgia, and OHMAR D. BRADEN, 36, of Lithonia, Georgia have been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of stealing U.S. Treasury checks from an Atlanta mail distribution center and then cashing them at banks and other businesses using fake identification documents.
United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said of the case, “Georgia ranks third in the country in the number of U.S. Treasury checks – including federal tax refund, Social Security, and Veterans checks – reported stolen from the mail before they reach their intended recipients. And Georgia is actually ranked first on such stolen checks based on a percentage of population. This is unacceptable. Our office has established a task force, including 14 federal, state, and local authorities, to specifically address this problem, with the goal of removing Georgia from this unfortunate list. This indictment is a key step in that direction as we target both those who directly steal from the mail, but as this indictment shows, we will also go after the network of brokers and check cashers who are key parts of these theft rings.”
“With tax season gearing up, Georgia taxpayers can rest assured that the U.S. Secret Service and its partners are working tirelessly to guard against the theft and misuse of Federal and State tax refunds, Social Security and Veterans checks. To maintain the tax payer’s trust in our economic system, we will continue to aggressively pursue anyone who violates this trust,” said Reginald G. Moore, Special Agent in Charge of the United States Secret Service, Atlanta Field Office.
Paul Bowman, Area Special Agent in Charge of the United States Postal Service, Office of Inspector General, said, “Deborah Fambro-Echols reflects just a very small percentage of employees who failed to uphold the trust and integrity placed in them. The U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General takes these cases very serious and investigates them to the fullest extent of the law. The general public should be reminded that the majority of postal employees remain committed to exhibiting the highest moral character and trust that our customers expect and deserve.”
Guy P. Fallen, Special Agent in Charge, Office of the Inspector General, Social Security Administration said, “The Office of the Inspector General is gratified to have worked with the U.S. Attorney in ensuring that those who would fraudulently obtain Social Security benefits are brought to justice.”
Special Agent in Charge Quentin G. Aucoin, Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Inspector General (VA/OIG) said, “Thefts of V.A. benefits checks intended for veterans who honorably served this country will not be tolerated. VA OIG vigorously investigates allegations of criminal activities impacting VA programs.”
Fulton County Sheriff “Ted” Jackson said, “The Fulton County Sheriff’s Office considers it an honor to work alongside and share resources with the United States Secret Service and the United States Postal Service Office of the Inspector General to shut down thieves who appallingly victimized hardworking Georgians who deserve the combined efforts local and federal law enforcement in resolving these types of crimes. I commend all of the investigators for their unrelenting pursuit of these criminals which will keep senior citizens, taxpayers, and veterans safe from fraud.”
According to United States Attorney Yates, the charges and other information presented in court: FAMBRO-ECHOLS worked as a mail handler at the Atlanta Processing and Distribution Center, a centralized mail distribution center in Hapeville, Georgia that processes mail for delivery to dozens of zip codes in Georgia. While on the job, she allegedly stole hundreds of U.S. Treasury checks and provided them to a network of brokers and check cashers who would then negotiate the checks and split the criminal proceeds with her. These individuals allegedly forged endorsements and used fake identifications to pose as the intended recipients and cash the checks.
The indictment alleges that in April 2011, law enforcement authorities discovered over 660 Treasury checks totaling over $590,000 in FAMBRO-ECHOLS’ possession and at her residence in Hapeville. Most of the checks discovered during the search were dated from April 8 to 19, 2011, and thus stolen in less than a two-week period. FRASIER allegedly acted as a broker for FAMBRO-ECHOLS and recruited others to cash stolen checks at banks and other business establishments. WEAVER, McKEE, and BRADEN allegedly worked as check cashers in the scheme, negotiating stolen checks with the help of fake identification documents and sharing the proceeds with the co-conspirators.
The 7-count indictment alleges conspiracy, theft of government money, possession of stolen Treasury checks, bank fraud, and aggravated identity theft. The charges carry maximum sentences that range from 5 to 30 years in prison, and fines of up to $1 million. The aggravated identity theft charge requires a mandatory minimum sentence of 2 years in addition to any other sentence imposed. In determining the actual sentence, the Court will consider the United States Sentencing Guidelines, which are not binding but provide appropriate sentencing ranges for most offenders.
Members of the public are reminded that the indictment contains only allegations. A defendant is presumed innocent of the charges and it will be the government’s burden to prove a defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.
This case is being investigated by the United States Secret Service; United States Postal Service, Office of Inspector General; Social Security Administration, Office of Inspector General; United States Postal Inspection Service; U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Inspector General; U.S. Department of the Treasury, Office of Inspector General; Georgia Department of Revenue, Office of Special Investigations; and DeKalb Police Department; with valuable assistance provided by the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office.
The Stolen Treasury Check Task Force is an informal group of 14 federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies working together to address the problem of stolen U.S. Treasury checks in the Northern District of Georgia.
Assistant United States Attorneys Stephen H. McClain and Loranzo M. Fleming are prosecuting the case.