CAMDEN, N.J. – Nathaniel Johnson was sentenced today to 84 months in prison for stealing government funds in the form of checks from mailboxes and mail trucks in connection with an identity theft scheme that he ran with his wife, Lakisha Scanes, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Johnson, 43, of Camden, previously pleaded guilty to an Information charging him with theft of government funds. Johnson entered his guilty plea before U.S. District Judge Joseph H. Rodriguez. Judge Rodriguez also imposed the sentence today in Camden federal court.
According to documents filed in the case and statements made in court:
Johnson admitted that he and his wife, Scanes, 30, also of Camden, stole mail from U.S. Postal vehicles and mailboxes in the Camden area from November 2009 through April 2010. They stole the mail in order to obtain checks, including Social Security, unemployment and tax refund checks issued by the federal government and the state of New Jersey. Johnson also admitted that he recruited other individuals, primarily crack addicts and prostitutes, to help cash the stolen checks.
Johnson then took personal information from the checks – including names and addresses – and used it to obtain false identification documents for the check cashers from various identification businesses in the Camden area. In addition, Johnson also admitted that he transported the check cashers to and from the identification businesses and the check cashing businesses, and paid each check casher a portion of the proceeds. The scheme caused more than $70,000 in losses from November 1, 2009, to April 29, 2010.
In addition to the prison term, Judge Rodriguez sentenced Johnson to three years of supervised release and ordered him to pay $70,804.57 in restitution.
Scanes, who helped Johnson rob mailboxes and recruit and transport check cashers, also pleaded guilty to theft of government funds, on January 25, 2011. Scanes is scheduled to be sentenced on August 18, 2011. Another co-conspirator, Gilbert Mercado, 37, of Camden, helped Johnson to rob mail vehicles and cashed several checks. Mercado pleaded guilty to the same charge on January 24, 2011, and was sentenced to 51 months in prison on May 24, 2011.
U.S. Attorney Fishman credited U.S. postal inspectors, under the direction of Karen V. Higgins, Postal Inspector in Charge of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Philadelphia Division, for their investigation leading to today’s sentence. He also thanked special agents with the Social Security Administration, Office of the Inspector General, New York Field Division, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Edward J. Ryan; U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Inspector General, Office of Investigations, Northeast Field Office, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Jeffrey G. Hughes; and the Camden Police Department, under the direction of Chief J. Scott Thomson.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Diana Carrig of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Criminal Division in Camden.