Six people have been taken into custody following the return of a 32-count indictment alleging wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud, theft of public money and conspiracy to do so as well as aggravated identity theft.
James Michael Curtis Johnson, 31, Donald Ray Perry, 26, Enitra Shante Pickett, 28, and D’angela Devonne Domio, 26, all of Houston; Joshua Jacquez Britton, 28, of Richmond; and Joseph Edward Johnson, 44, of Katy, were taken into custody on Wednesday, October 2. They were expected to make their initial appearances before U.S. Magistrate Judge Nancy Johnson at 2:00 p.m. on the same day.
A federal grand jury returned the indictment Oct. 26, 2016, which was unsealed upon the arrests made on Wednesday. That indictment alleges two schemes – a conspiracy to steal money from bank accounts and a conspiracy involving the filing of false tax returns and aggravated identity theft.
James Johnson, Joseph Johnson, Pickett and Joshua Britton allegedly conspired with themselves and others to steal money from bank accounts by posing as accountholders, creating fake bank accounts online and then transferring money from victim bank accounts or home equity lines of credit. According to the indictment, these four defendants stole money before the fraud could be detected and the funds frozen.
All six are charged with conspiring to file false tax returns and claiming refunds to which they were not entitled. The indictment alleges that once the fraudulent refunds were paid, the conspirators drained the money before it could be frozen. As part of this conspiracy, the indictment also alleges they each engaged in aggravated identity theft by using victims’ identification without authorization to commit these offenses.
The charges of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud each carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison, while a conviction for theft of public money is punishable by a maximum of 10 years imprisonment. Each defendant also faces a maximum of five years in federal prison upon conviction of the conspiracy. Each conviction also carries a possible $250,000 fine.