John H. Durham, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, announced that JONELL BONILLA, 26, of Waterbury, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Vanessa L. Bryant to 46 months of imprisonment, followed by four years of supervised release, for operating a counterfeit check bank fraud scheme.
Pursuant to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), the court proceeding occurred via videoconference.
According to court documents and statements made in court, between approximately December 2017 and January 2019, Bonilla and others obtained access to bank accounts by recruiting individuals through social media and persuading the individuals to share their account information, including debit cards and associated PIN numbers. The account holders were paid for providing access to their bank accounts. Bonilla and his co-conspirators misrepresented to the account holders that U.S. Postal Service money orders or authentic checks would be deposited into their accounts. After Bonilla and his co-conspirators had access to the accounts, they deposited counterfeit checks into those accounts and then withdrew money from the accounts before the banks discovered the checks to be counterfeit.
Bonilla and his co-conspirators attempted to steal more than $500,000 through this scheme, and were successful in defrauding at least 12 banks of approximately $319,000.
Judge Bryant ordered Bonilla to pay restitution of $254,499.90.
Bonilla has been detained since his arrest on January 9, 2019. On October 2, 2019, he pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and one count of bank fraud.
Three of Bonilla’s co-conspirators have pleaded guilty and await sentencing.
This matter is being investigated by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the U.S. Secret Service. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney John T. Pierpont, Jr.