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Financial Crimes
07/10/2020

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NJ man charged with stealing, altering US Treasury check

NEWARK, N.J. – A Middlesex County, New Jersey, man has been charged with bank fraud, theft and identity theft following a multiagency investigation, which included U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Bernard Lopez, 40, of Sayreville, New Jersey, is charged by complaint with one count of bank fraud, one count of theft of government funds and one count of aggravated identity theft. He was arrested July 6, appeared July 8 by teleconference before U.S. Magistrate Judge Lauren F. Louis in the Southern District of Florida, and is expected to appear by videoconference before U.S. Magistrate Judge Leda Dunn Wettre later this week.

According to the documents filed in this case and statements made in court: On Oct. 5, 2019, Lopez used a victim’s Social Security number and business documents pertaining to a sham business that he had created to open a fraudulent bank account in that business’ name. Lopez then fraudulently obtained a U.S. Treasury check, which was fraudulently altered to be made payable to the sham business in the amount of $211,887 and deposited it into the account. Lopez then either withdraw or transfer the stolen proceeds from the fraudulent business bank account before anyone could detect the fraud.

The bank fraud charge carries a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison and a fine of the greatest of $1 million or twice the gain derived from, or loss caused by, the offense. The theft of government funds charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of the greatest of $250,000 or twice the gain derived from, or loss caused by, the offense. The aggravated identity theft charge carries a mandatory term of imprisonment of two years, which must run consecutively to any other term of imprisonment imposed.

U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito credited special agents and task force officers of the U.S. Department of the Treasury-Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Assistant Inspector General for Investigations Sally D. Luttrell, with the investigation leading to the charges. He also thanked the Homeland Security Investigations, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Jason J. Molina, for assistance in the investigation. HSI Miami worked diligently through the weekend to locate and arrest Lopez.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Perry Farhat of the Government Fraud Unit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Criminal Division in Newark.

The charges and allegations in the complaint are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

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Last Reviewed/Updated: 07/13/2020