Reston man pleads guilty to identity theft involving fake COVID-19 relief checks

A Reston man pleaded guilty in federal court yesterday (Wednesday) to an elaborate identity theft and fraud scheme that included the creation of counterfeit COVID-19 stimulus checks, the Department of Justice announced.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia, which prosecuted the case at the U.S. District Court in Alexandria, 38-year-old Jonathan Drew stole mail addressed to more than 150 individuals in Fairfax County between approximately December 2019 and August 2020.

He used the stolen mail — which included bank statements, credit cards, credit card statements, W-2 forms, and more than $700,000 in checks — to open bank accounts, lease an apartment, and conduct other fraudulent transactions involving counterfeit and forged checks, wire transfers, and the unauthorized use of credit cards.

Among the stolen checks was an Economic Impact Payment check sent by the IRS as part of the federal COVID-19 relief efforts. Drew used that stolen check to create counterfeit stimulus checks ranging in amount from $1,200 to $2,400. He also managed to negotiate “his own authentically issued stimulus check twice,” according to the DOJ.

Drew pleaded guilty to bank fraud and aggravated identity theft. The plea was accepted by U.S. District Judge Anthony J. Trenga and announced by several local and federal officials, including interim Fairfax County Police Chief David Rohrer.

“We are firmly committed to holding accountable fraudsters who engage in identity theft and exploit a national economic crisis for personal gain at the expense of hardworking members of our communities,” Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia Raj Parekh said.

Drew has been scheduled for sentencing on August 25. He faces up to 32 years in prison with a mandatory minimum of two years.

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