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Financial Crimes

NM man sentenced to 2 ½ years in prison for federal bank fraud, identity theft

ALBUQUERQUE — A man from Belen, New Mexico, was sentenced Friday to 2 ½ years in federal prison and five years of supervised release following his conviction on bank fraud and conspiracy charges.

Special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) investigated this case.

Raymundo Silva, 35, was indicted in August 2013 on conspiracy, bank fraud and aggravated identity theft charges. His two co-defendants were also indicted at the same time: Christina Knight, 29, of Albuquerque, N.M., and Patricia Diaz, 35, of Los Lunas, N.M. The trio was subsequently charged in a 31-count superseding indictment on the following charges: conspiracy to commit bank fraud; 24 counts of bank fraud, including eight counts against Silva, three counts against Diaz, and 13 counts against Knight; and six counts of aggravated identity theft against Knight.

The superseding indictment generally charged Silva, Knight and Diaz with engaging in a scheme to commit bank fraud between December 2011 and April 2013. According to the superseding indictment, Silva, Knight and Diaz perpetuated the scheme by stealing checks from residential mailboxes, altering the names of payees and the amounts on the checks, and cashing the checks using either their own identities or, in the case of Knight, the identities of others.

On Oct. 28, 2013, Diaz pleaded guilty to bank fraud conspiracy and three substantive bank fraud charges. Knight pleaded guilty Feb. 20, 2014, to the bank fraud conspiracy, 13 substantive bank fraud charges, and one count of aggravated identity theft. Silva was convicted Feb. 27 on bank fraud conspiracy and five substantive bank fraud charges.

According to court records and trial evidence, in December 2011 a Los Lunas police officer investigating a check-washing and identity theft ring targeted a sedan seen leaving a Los Lunas bank after a failed attempt to cash a fraudulent check. In February 2012, after surveillance established that the sedan frequently visited a residence in Belen, Los Lunas police officers executed a search warrant at the residence and seized various items, including: chemicals and other products commonly used to wash and alter checks, several driver's licenses, college IDs and Social Security cards, bank receipts and other evidence.

Investigation by HSI and the Los Lunas Police Department identified Silva, Knight and Diaz as the members of the bank fraud scheme in late 2012, following the theft of five checks from the mailbox of a Los Lunas residence. Silva cashed one of the checks Dec. 26, 2012. Between Dec. 20, 2012 and Jan. 4, 2013, Knight cashed three of the checks by using the identification of another person. Each of these four checks had been altered by changing the name of the payee and amount. Laboratory analysis by HSI revealed that the chemicals seized from Silva's residence were used to wash the checks.

Diaz was sentenced March 18 to 62 days of time-served followed by five years of supervised release, and was ordered to pay $400 in restitution. On June 5, Diaz was arrested for violating the conditions of her supervised release. She was sentenced July 10 to three months in custody followed by four years of supervised release.

Silva was sentenced Aug. 1 to 30 months in federal prison and five years of supervised release.

Knight has been in federal custody since her arrest and remains detained pending her sentencing hearing which is set for Sept. 9.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Norman Cairns and Paul Mysliwiec, District of New Mexico.