ATLANTA – Gerald Eason, 47, of Stockbridge, Georgia, pleaded guilty today in federal court before U.S. District Judge Charles A. Pannell, Jr. to stealing over 1,300 U.S. Treasury checks worth more than $2.8 million, while employed as a supervisor at an Atlanta mail distribution facility. He also admitted to conspiring with another postal worker, Deborah Fambro-Echols, 49, of Hapeville, Georgia, at the same facility to steal and cash additional checks.
Fambro-Echols pleaded guilty to these charges on November 26, 2012. Four other defendants, Wendy Frasier, 35, and Daralyn M. Weaver, 31, both of Atlanta, Georgia, Jabril O. McKee, 25, of Fairburn, Georgia, and Ohmar D. Braden, 36, of Lithonia, Georgia, have also pleaded guilty in the case for their roles in the scheme.
United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said, “We created a task force last year to address the problem of stolen U.S. Treasury checks in Georgia. At that time, our state ranked third in the country in the number of federal tax refund, Social Security, and Veterans checks reported stolen by their intended recipients. With today’s pleas, we have taken two corrupt postal workers, including a supervisor, off the streets who were responsible for stealing thousands of checks worth over $3 million. We will continue to target these theft rings – both those on the inside and their network of check cashers – to address this serious problem.”
“This case illustrates the importance of task force partnerships with state, local, and federal law enforcement agencies in combating threats to our nation’s financial payment systems. U.S. Treasury checks are still a vital part of that system. The U.S. Secret Service will continue to aggressively pursue anyone who violates the faith and trust citizens have in our financial infrastructure,” said Reginald G. Moore, Special Agent in Charge of the United States Secret Service, Atlanta Field Office.
“Eason and Fambro-Echols reflect just a very small percentage of employees who failed to uphold the trust and integrity placed in them,” said Paul Bowman, Special Agent in Charge of the United States Postal Service, Office of Inspector General. “We take these cases very serious and investigate them to the fullest extent of the law. The majority of Postal Service employees are honest, hardworking, and committed to providing the timely and reliable service that customers expect and deserve.”
“The U.S. Department of the Treasury, Office of Inspector General is charged with a duty to prevent and detect fraud and abuse of Treasury programs and operations. We are fully committed to fighting the ever growing fraud threats against the U.S. Treasury. Working together in a task force strengthens our ability to investigate and bring to justice those that would commit fraud against the U.S. Treasury,” said U.S. Department of the Treasury, Office of Inspector General, Eric Thorson.
Special Agent in Charge Quentin G. Aucoin, Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Inspector General stated, “Thefts of VA 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.”
“I’d like to commend the special task force dedicated to the investigation of U.S. Treasury check fraud in Georgia. Their hard work and determination yields not only a victory over check fraud in our state, but peace of mind for the hard-working families affected by these crimes. It is very gratifying to see our agencies partner effectively as they safeguard Georgians,” said Georgia Secretary of State, Brian Kemp.
According to United States Attorney Yates, the charges and other information presented in court: Eason worked as a supervisor at the Atlanta Processing and Distribution Center, a centralized mail distribution center, on Crown Road in Atlanta, Georgia. That facility processes mail for delivery to dozens of zip codes in Georgia. Fambro-Echols worked as a mail handler at the facility. While on the job, Eason and Fambro-Echols stole thousands 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 Eason and Fambro-Echols. These individuals forged endorsements and used fake identifications to pose as the intended recipients of the checks when cashing them.
In April 2011, law enforcement authorities searched Fambro-Echols’ residence in Hapeville. They found 661 Treasury checks totaling over $590,000. Almost all of the checks discovered during the search were dated from April 8 to 19, 2011, and thus stolen over less than a two-week period.
On March 7 and 11, 2012, Eason stole over 1,300 Treasury checks worth more than $2.8 million. Federal agents video recorded him stealing the checks at the mail facility and then observed him drive the checks to a residence, where he thought they would be distributed to co-conspirators who would cash them. He was arrested while attempting to collect his portion of the proceeds from the second delivery.
Frasier and Weaver acted as brokers for Fambro-Echols. They recruited others to cash the stolen checks at banks and business establishments. McKee and Braden worked as check cashers in the scheme, negotiating stolen checks with the help of fake identification documents and sharing the proceeds with their co-conspirators. In March 2011, they were arrested at a BestBank in Decatur, Georgia attempting to negotiate a stolen Social Security check while impersonating the intended recipient of the check.
Eason pleaded guilty to 7 counts, including conspiracy, theft of government money, and possession of stolen Treasury checks. Fambro-Echols pleaded guilty to conspiracy and theft of government money. Frasier and Weaver pleaded guilty to conspiracy and possession of stolen Treasury checks. McKee and Braden pleaded guilty to conspiracy, bank fraud, and aggravated identity theft. These charges carry maximum sentences that range from 5 to 30 years in prison each, and fines of up to $1,000,000 per count. The aggravated identity theft charges carry 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.
Eason, Weaver, Fambro-Echols, and Frasier are all scheduled for sentencing on February 27, 2013, before United States District Judge Charles A. Pannell, Jr. Fambro-Echols is scheduled for sentencing at 10:00 a.m., Frasier at 10:40 a.m., Weaver at 11:30 a.m., and Eason at 2:00 p.m.
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; 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.
This case was brought as part of the U.S. Attorney’s Stolen Treasury Check Task Force. The 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, Loranzo M. Fleming, Christopher C. Bly, and Jeffrey Viscomi are prosecuting the case.