YONKERS, N.Y. -- A Yonkers man was sentenced Wednesday to 44 months in prison for his part in a scheme to cash more than $400,000 in fraudulently obtained federal income tax refund checks, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York said.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said Edwin Mejia, 31, pleaded guilty to one count of theft of public funds and one count of aggravated identity theft in December before U.S. District Judge Paul A. Engelmayer, who imposed the sentence.
According to Bharara, until March 2014, Mejia worked at branches of Bank-1 in Yonkers and Manhattan. Mejia initially was a banker and later became the branch manager of multiple branches of Bank-1. From 2010-13, Bharara said, Mejia participated in a scheme to fraudulently obtain and cash tax refund checks issued by the U.S. Treasury.
The fraudulent refund checks were generated by the filing of false and fraudulent tax returns in the names of other people, and the checks were made payable to those purported filers. As part of this scheme, Mejia helped facilitate the cashing of the fraudulent refund checks, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.
Mejia obtained personal identification information for the purported filers, including their Social Security numbers and dates of birth, the U.S. Attorney's Office said. Mejia then cashed the fraudulent checks himself or by paying a co-conspirator to do so the U.S. Attorney's Office said.
When cashing a fraudulent check himself, Mejia presented the refund check, along with the corresponding Social Security number and date of birth of the purported filer, to a complicit bank employee, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.
Other times, Mejia paid a co-conspirator to open bank accounts in the names of the purported filers and cash the checks, the U.S. Attorney's Office said. As part of the scheme, Mejia cashed, or caused others to cash, more than $400,000 in fraudulent Treasury checks, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.
In addition to the term of prison, Mejia was sentenced to three years of supervised release and was ordered to pay $442,642.58 in forfeiture and $442,642.58 in restitution.
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