A Reston man has been sentenced to more than five years in prison for a bank fraud and identity theft scheme where he created fake COVID-19 stimulus checks, the Department of Justice announced yesterday (Wednesday).
Jonathan Drew, 39, was sentenced in federal court in Alexandria yesterday by Senior U.S. District Judge Anthony J. Trenga. His 70-month prison sentence is significantly less than the maximum of 32 years that he faced for charges of bank fraud and aggravated identity theft.
He pleaded guilty to the charges on April 14.
Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia Raj Parekh announced the sentencing. He was joined by Fairfax County Police Chief Kevin Davis, Loudoun County Sheriff Michael Chapman, Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration J. Russell George, and Daniel A. Adame, the inspector in charge of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service’s Washington Division.
“In addition to causing financial harm to the individuals from whom he stole checks and credit cards, the defendant’s sweeping criminal conduct also inflicted emotional harm and distress to his identity theft victims,” Parekh said in a statement. “As this case demonstrates, we are determined to hold accountable those who seek to illegally enrich themselves by defrauding and stealing from our residents.”
According to the DOJ news release, Drew stole the identities of more than 150 people between December 2019 and August 2020:
According to court documents, between approximately December 2019 and August 2020, Jonathan Drew, 39, stole U.S. mail addressed to more than 150 individuals in Fairfax and Loudoun counties. The mail Drew stole included bank statements, credit cards, credit card statements, W-2 forms, and more than $700,000 in checks, including a COVID-19 stimulus payment and checks Drew used to create counterfeit checks.
According to court documents, Drew used the stolen stimulus check to create counterfeit stimulus checks ranging from $1,200 to $2,400, and he negotiated his own authentically issued stimulus check twice. Drew also used the personally identifiable information of several individuals without authorization to lease an apartment; open bank accounts; and attempt to conduct fraudulent transactions through counterfeit checks, forged checks, unauthorized use of credit cards, and wire transfers.
The case was prosecuted by Special Assistant U.S. Attorneys Olivia Zhu and Roberta O. Roberts, along with Assistant U.S. Attorney Russell L. Carlberg.
Attorney General Merrick Garland established a COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force with the Department of Justice and other government agencies on May 17 to investigate and prosecute crimes related to the pandemic and the various relief programs created to address its economic impact.
The DOJ says people can stay alert for fraud involving COVID-19 vaccinations and testing, unemployment benefits, and taxes by not responding to unsolicited phone calls or emails and avoiding sharing personal or health information with anyone other than trusted medical professionals.
Anyone who thinks they might be a victim of a scam or attempted fraud involving COVID-19 can report it by calling the DOJ National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721 or submitting a National Center for Disaster Fraud complaint form.
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