GRAND RAPIDS — Eighteen defendants, including three from South Haven, will serve prison sentences for participating in a multi-state scheme to defraud Bank of America of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Tirrell Perry Thomas, the Kalamazoo leader of the scheme, was sentenced to 8.5 years in federal prison as part of the ongoing multi-state investigation, U.S. Attorney Andrew Birge announced Tuesday.
The three South Haven residents and their prison sentences were: Jerome Datra Perry, 15 months; James Langford, 12 months; and Elnora Snipes, three months.
U.S. District Judge Paul Maloney sentenced Thomas and the other defendants for their involvement in the bank card fraud scheme, which sought to obtain more than $780,000 from Bank of America and resulted in losses totaling $455,709. This is Thomas’s third federal felony conviction. He was convicted of federal drug trafficking offenses in 1999 and 2007.
The other defendants, including co-conspirator Earl Lee Cobb IV of Chicago, were also sentenced for their roles in the fraud scheme.
The sentences follow a 28-count indictment that was returned by a grand jury in August 2017 alleging that 19 people participated in a conspiracy to defraud Bank of America in November and December 2015. The fraud was accomplished by using debit cards to withdraw funds from ATMs and casinos in Michigan, which had been fraudulently deposited into the bank accounts in Illinois, by Cobb IV.
Eighteen defendants pleded guilty to at least one count in the indictment and one defendant, an account holder, was allowed to enter a period of pretrial diversion, a form of probation without entry of a guilty plea.
Some of the defendants held Bank of America accounts or opened new ones to accept fraudulent check deposits and then made fraudulent withdrawals at banks and casinos, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Michigan. Others acted as recruiters who accompanied and directed account holders on trips to open bank accounts and withdraw funds, while some of the suspects, such as Thomas, were leaders and organizers who collected and divided the fraud proceeds.
In addition to the prison and probation sentences, each defendant sentenced to prison will serve a period of supervised release after their custodial sentence, and each defendant was ordered to pay restitution to Bank of America ranging from $8,027 to $455,709, depending on the amount of loss for which they were held responsible.
The Bank of America fraud case was investigated by the Detroit Division of the FBI and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service in Chicago, with assistance from the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of Potawatomi Tribal Police Department.