Meshach Samuels has pled guilty to over $1.2 million in suspected fraud.
The case shows how intertwined social media and check fraud have become. Fraudsters sell their fraudulent methods and checks or recruit mules and co-conspirators to help them in their schemes.
Like many other fraudsters, he used social media to perpetrate his scheme and recruit others to help him.
He urged his Instagram followers to join his Telegram chat groups, where – for a fee of up to thousands of dollars – he would provide instructions on how to recruit accomplices and commit check fraud to steal money from banks.
And it also shows the level of crime and violence involved in check fraud.
When Samuels was 18, he was accused of dragging a police officer half a block during a traffic stop and leaving the officer for dead when he fled. At the time, he was driving a 2014 Mercedes S 550 worth $115,000 .
That car was later linked to the Miami Gardens community leader and pastor, Eric Readon, who leased it. Eric Readon was also recently arrested on a big fraud charge for allegedly defrauding an elderly man out of his home.
He Would Create Counterfeit Checks From Information He Gathered From Bank Tellers
It appears Samuels was able to create a network through Telegram and may have even recruited bank tellers or “innys,” as they are referred to online.
Samuels and his accomplices would create fraudulent checks drawn on victim accounts, frequently using stolen information obtained from a bank teller and other sources.
The people that he recruited into his scheme, aided and abetted by Samuels, would deposit the fraudulent checks into third-party accounts.
Once the check amounts were credited to the third-party accounts, those people fraudulently withdrew money in amounts below $10,000 to avoid triggering bank scrutiny.
The corrupt bank teller was paid a portion of the cash the conspirators obtained from negotiating fraudulent checks.
In total, Samuels and his crew attempted over $1.2 million in fraudulent checks and netted $400,000 in total.
He Also Was An Unemployment Fraudster, According To The Complaint
Samuels also admitted in his plea agreement that he participated in a scheme to defraud the California Employment Development Department (EDD) by submitting fraudulent applications for pandemic-related unemployment insurance containing stolen identity information.
Those fraudulent applications included information from individuals who resided outside California who were deceased or otherwise not eligible for unemployment insurance. Members of the scheme provided EDD with a set of common mailing addresses they controlled for multiple applications.
After EDD approved the fraudulent applications and disbursed the pandemic benefits to EDD debit accounts, Samuels and his co-schemers used the debit cards to withdraw cash at ATMs.
In total, Samuels caused at least $14,250 in actual losses to EDD.
A History Of Crime In Other States
Samuel is no stranger to crime. Even though he was arrested in California, his crimes go all the way back to his teen years living in Florida.
His criminal history includes felony convictions in Florida for aggravated battery on a law enforcement official with an enhancement for attempted murder and admitted to unlawfully possessing firearms and ammunition.
Specifically, during an August 2021 traffic stop in Costa Mesa, police officers found a firearm and ammunition concealed on his person.
In March 2022, federal agents searched Samuels’ residence and seized five firearms and ammunition.