A Bowie, Maryland woman was sentenced to 70 months in prison for bank fraud, mail fraud, and aggravated identity theft. The court also ordered Lewis to forfeit and pay over $249,000 in restitution.
According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, Tonia Latrice Lewis, 47, obtained the identities of dozens of victims and used those identities to open bank accounts and apply for loans in the names of the victims, without their knowledge or consent. Lewis submitted over 30 applications to open accounts and get access to funds from various financial institutions, including Pentagon Federal Credit Union, Lafayette Federal Credit Union, U.S. Postal Service Federal Credit Union, Interior Federal Credit Union, D.C. Teachers Federal Credit Union, M&T Bank, and others. Most of the financial institutions that Lewis defrauded were not-for-profit credit unions.
According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, Lewis took sophisticated steps to perpetrate the years-long scheme and conceal her identity. Lewis focused on financial institutions that allowed her to apply for and submit back-up documentation online, thereby minimizing the risk that she would be caught on surveillance video. Lewis fabricated a variety of fraudulent documents to substantiate the applications and stolen identities, including paystubs and driver’s licenses, and she paid to run detailed credit reports/checks on her victims. In perpetrating this scheme, Lewis created fake email accounts, purchased burner phones that were used as the contact numbers on the fraudulent applications, and caused the victims’ mail to be forwarded to vacant/abandoned properties. When Lewis went to withdraw funds from the fraudulent accounts, she often wore clothing such as hats, glasses, or scarves that obscured her face, and even took steps to cover up surveillance cameras by covering them with aluminum foil.
Lewis sought over $600,000 in loans and financing, and her actions caused actual losses of $249,858.29. Lewis used the proceeds from the fraud in part to purchase jewelry, items of clothing, and to gamble at a casino in West Virginia.
Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; Robert B. Wemyss, Inspector in Charge of the Washington Division of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service; and J. Thomas Manger, Montgomery County Chief of Police, made the announcement after sentencing by Senior U.S. District Judge Claude M. Hilton. Assistant U.S. Attorney Katherine L. Wong and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Culhane Harper of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section prosecuted the case.