Greenbelt, Maryland – A federal criminal complaint has been filed charging Justina Elena Olivero, a/k/a Justina Guzman, age 33, of Laurel, Maryland for bank fraud, wire fraud, aggravated identity theft, and unlawful possession of stolen mail. The criminal complaint was filed on July 1, 2020 and was unsealed at her initial appearance today.
The criminal complaint 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; Chief Marcus Jones of the Montgomery County Police Department; and Special Agent in Charge John Eisert of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Baltimore.
According to the affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint, beginning in at least August 2017 and continuing through May 2020, Olivero allegedly orchestrated three separate fraud schemes involving multiple victims and losses of more than $142,000. The affidavit alleges that the fraud schemes included: 1) an identity theft scheme in which stolen checks were deposited into various bank accounts and then the money was withdrawn by Olivero; (2) a credit card fraud scheme in which Olivero impersonated American Express customers, ordered emergency replacement cards in those customers’ names, and had those cards mailed to her addresses; and (3) while working at a criminal defense law firm, Olivero fraudulently posed as an attorney and convinced the law firm’s clients to send her money for services she could not and did not provide.
For example, as detailed in the affidavit, in June 2018, the Montgomery County Police Department (MCPD) received a complaint of check forgery and mail theft from Victim 1, a resident of Bethesda, Maryland. On December 29, 2017, Victim 1 mailed a check for $27,000 made payable to the Montgomery County Government for property taxes. Approximately six months later, Victim 1 learned the Montgomery County Government never received this check. In fact, Victim 1’s check was altered and deposited into a TD Bank account opened in the names of Victim 2 and Victim 3 with an address in Laurel, Maryland, where Olivero was a resident. Two additional stolen checks were also found to have been deposited into that account. Investigators interviewed Victim 2 and Victim 3, a married couple, at their residence in Potomac, Maryland and the victims reported that they did not open or authorize the opening of the account.
According to TD Bank records, there were two cash withdrawals from the account, on May 30 and June 6, 2018, each for $5,000, and both withdrawal slips were signed “Justina Guzman.” Two checks were also issued from the account on May 28 and May 29, 2018, each for $1,750. Investigators learned that Olivero provided both checks as payment for a rental property located in Laurel.
On September 14, 2018, law enforcement officers executed a state search warrant at Olivero’s Laurel residence and recovered stolen mail consisting of blank convenience checks; bank, credit card, and investment account statements belonging to victims residing in Potomac, Maryland; two Apple iPhones (including an iPhone X), one Apple iPad, and one HP laptop; credit/debit cards and numerous bank statements in the name of “Justina Guzman” and “Justina Olivero”; and a spiral notebook containing handwritten notes of victims’ names, addresses, social security numbers, and dates of birth, including the personal identifying information (“PII”) of Victim 2 and Victim 3. Law enforcement officers also obtained and reviewed statements from six bank accounts allegedly associated with Olivero. Twenty-three personal checks totaling $102,276.49 and involving seventeen victims were deposited into these six accounts and another account maintained by Olivero. Once the stolen checks were deposited, approximately $102,276.49 was subsequently depleted from the accounts through ATM cash withdraws, online transfers, and debit card purchases.
In addition to stealing and altering checks, Olivero used stolen identities to order replacement American Express (“AMEX”) credit cards in the names of individuals without the account holders’ knowledge or consent. Olivero then directed those credit cards to addresses associated with Olivero.
According to the affidavit, in August 2017, an unknown individual purporting to be Victim 16 contacted AMEX to request an emergency card replacement (“ECR”). AMEX issued an ECR in Olivero’s name, using a shipping address in Laurel which was a residence of Olivero’s. In January 2018, an unknown individual contacted AMEX to add Olivero’s name to Victim 16’s account and subsequently requested another ECR. AMEX issued the ECR and delivered it, via FedEx, to another residence of Olivero’s. Also in January 2018, seven emergency replacement cards for Victim 17 were shipped to this residence. Five of the ECRs that were sent had an unlimited credit limit, and two of the ECRs that were sent had credit limits of $14,500 each. The calls requesting the ECRs came from a number associated with Olivero’s Apple iPhone seized during the search on September 14, 2018.
Finally, during the Fall of 2018, Olivero agreed to work at a law firm in exchange for legal services from the firm and Individual 3. Unbeknownst to the law firm or Individual 3, Olivero used her employment with the law firm to hold herself out as an attorney in order to fraudulently obtain money from victims by providing services and obtaining their PII. In total, as part of this scheme, victims provided approximately $13,000 in payments directly to Olivero.
If convicted, Olivero faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in federal prison for bank fraud; a maximum of 20 in federal prison for wire fraud; a maximum of five years in federal prison for possession of stolen mail; and a mandatory two years in federal prison, consecutive to any other sentence, for aggravated identity theft. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors. At today’s initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt, U.S. Magistrate Judge Gina L. Simms ordered that Olivero be detained pending trial.
A criminal complaint is not a finding of guilt. An individual charged by criminal complaint 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 Montgomery County Police Department, and HSI for their work in the investigation. Mr. Hur thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys Erin B. Pulice and Rajeev Raghavan, who are prosecuting the case.
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