CHARLOTTE, N.C. – David Clarke, 30, of Charlotte, appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge David S. Cayer today, and pleaded guilty to federal charges for his role in two separate schemes involving identity theft, announced Andrew Murray, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina. Clarke’s co-conspirator, Jamel Johnson, previously pleaded guilty for his involvement in the schemes.
Clarke and Johnson were initially indicted on June 19, 2020, on bank and wire fraud conspiracy and aggravated identity theft charges, for orchestrating a scheme in which they used stolen personal information of identity theft victims to obtain fraudulent bank loans. On October 7, 2020, new federal wire fraud charges were filed against Clarke, for using stolen identities to file for, and receive, COVID-19 Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits.
According filed court documents and statements made at Clarke’s plea hearing today, from August 2019 to June 2020, Clarke, Johnson and their co-conspirators engaged in a bank loan scheme involving the use of stolen information of identity theft victims. Court documents show that, after acquiring the victims’ stolen identities on the internet and elsewhere, the co-conspirators used them to attempt to obtain more than $1,000,000 in fraudulent bank loans and goods.
According to court records, over the course of the investigation into the bank loan scheme, law enforcement discovered that Clarke was also executing a separate scheme involving COVID-19 UI benefits. In this scheme, court records show that, from May through July 2020, Clarke defrauded the U.S. Department of Labor, the State of Wisconsin, and the State of Arizona, by submitting fraudulent claims for unemployment insurance benefits in the names of identity theft victims. During the relevant time-period, Clarke fraudulently obtained over $82,500 in fraudulent UI benefits using the compromised identities of more than 60 victims. According to court records, Clarke directed that payments of the fraudulent UI benefits be made to Green Dot cards, or to bank accounts under Clarke’s control.
Clarke is currently in federal custody. The charge of conspiracy to commit bank and wire fraud carries a maximum prison sentence of 30 years and a $1 million fine. The aggravated identity theft charge carries a minimum prison term of two years, consecutive to any other prison term imposed, and a $250,000 fine. The wire fraud charge carries a maximum prison sentence of 20 years and a $250,000 fine.
Clarke’s co-defendant, Johnson, has also pleaded guilty to bank and wire fraud conspiracy, aggravated identity theft, and wire fraud for his role in both schemes. A third co-defendant involved in the bank loan scheme, Justin Parks, has pleaded guilty to bank and wire fraud conspiracy and aggravated identity theft. A sentencing date for Clarke, Johnson and Parks has not been set.
The charges against Mikael Roberts, for his alleged involvement in the loan scheme, are still pending, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt in a court of law.
In making today’s announcement, U.S. Attorney Murray commended the U.S. Postal Inspection Service for their investigative efforts, and thanked the Atlanta Regional Office of the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of the Inspector General, and the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department for their invaluable assistance.
The prosecution for the government is handled by Assistant United States Attorney Jenny G. Sugar of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Charlotte.