LOS ANGELES – A jury has convicted a Northridge, Calif. man of 51 counts of fraud, money laundering, identity theft and other federal offenses in relation to a scheme that generated at least $3 million.
Turhan Lemont Armstrong, 49, was found guilty Friday at the conclusion of a two-week trial. Armstrong was convicted of all 51 counts in a grand jury indictment, which included charges of conspiracy to commit financial institution fraud, financial institution fraud, making false statements to financial institutions, conspiracy to commit money laundering, money laundering, conspiracy to commit access device (credit card) fraud, access device fraud, interstate transportation of stolen vehicles, and aggravated identity theft.
The investigation of Armstrong was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) – with substantial assistance from the Social Security Administration’s Office of Inspector General, the Miami-Dade Police Department and the North Miami Beach Police Department.
The evidence presented at trial showed that Armstrong used stolen identities and Social Security numbers to obtain credit cards, open bank accounts, set up shell companies, apply for loans, and purchase homes and cars. Armstrong and his co-defendants – two of whom previously pleaded guilty – favored using the social security numbers of children, who would be less likely to monitor their credit.
In addition to using fraudulently-obtained credit cards to purchase goods, members of the scheme were able to use point-of-sale terminals maintained by “collusive merchants,” which allowed them to make what were essentially cash withdrawals.
Armstrong and his co-conspirators also used the fraudulent information to apply for loans from financial institutions across the country. In some instances, Armstrong obtained loans for cars that had already been exported out of the United States.
During the trial, the jury heard evidence that Armstrong did not report any income to the Internal Revenue Service for the years 2009 through 2017 – yet he maintained residences in Georgia, Florida and the Sherwood Forest neighborhood of Northridge.
When authorities went to Armstrong’s apartment in Atlanta in late 2017 to arrest him pursuant to the indictment, he evaded law enforcement – only to be arrested three days later leaving his house in Fort Lauderdale.
HSI special agents executed search warrants at all three of Armstrong’s homes, as well as two storage units in the Los Angeles area, where they discovered false identity documents, hundreds of credit cards in various names, and lists of social security numbers belonging to other people.
Armstrong is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner on August 5. As a result of the guilty verdicts, he faces a statutory maximum sentence of over 1,000 years in federal prison.
The matter is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Central District of California.