New Jersey Man Admits Role in $2 Million Fraudulent Check Scheme Targeting Home-Improvement Stores
NEWARK, N.J. – A Middlesex County, New Jersey, man pleaded guilty today in connection with his role in a phony check scheme that resulted in the theft of over $2 million in merchandise from multiple home improvement stores throughout the country, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced.
John Muyeka, 44, of Sayreville, New Jersey, pleaded guilty to a superseding information charging him with one count of misprision of a felony before U.S. District Judge Katharine S. Hayden in Newark federal court.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
Starting in December 2013 and continuing through February 2017, Muyeka and other conspirators agreed to obtain merchandise or store credit from home improvement stores in locations along the eastern United States, including New Jersey, by purchasing items with fraudulent checks.
The individuals entered home improvement and other retail stores and gathered several high-value items like air conditioners or hardwood flooring. They then typically “purchased” the items either by handing a cashier a fraudulent check with a phony name but authentic account and routing numbers, or by pretending to be an authorized signatory on a store credit account that the individuals had previously opened with a phony check.
During some of the transactions, the conspirators displayed fake driver’s licenses that had been created by Muyeka, which either duplicated the phony name imprinted on the fraudulent check they presented for payment or matched the name of an authorized signatory on a store credit account that they had previously opened.
In total, the conspirators allegedly stole over $2 million in merchandise from various retailers in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, North Carolina, Georgia, Virginia, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and South Carolina.
The count of misprision carries a maximum potential penalty of three years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 15, 2019.
U.S. Attorney Carpenito credited postal inspectors of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, under the direction of Inspector in Charge James Buthorn, and special agents of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of New Jersey, with the investigation. He also thanked the Union Township Police Department, the Holmdel Police Department, the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office, the Totowa Police Department, and the Monroe Township Police Department for their assistance.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason S. Gould of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Criminal Division in Newark.