Orange County man found guilty of $1.2 million check fraud scheme

An Orange County man was found guilty of conducting a $1.2 million check fraud scheme that he promoted on social media.

Meshach Samuels, 26, from Placentia, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and two counts of being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

From May 2021 to March 2022, “Samuels urged his Instagram followers to join his Telegram chat groups, where – for a fee of up to thousands of dollars – he would provide instructions on how to recruit accomplices and commit check fraud to steal money from banks,” officials said.

Samuels and his accomplices would create fraudulent checks drawn from victim accounts. They used stolen personal information that was obtained from a “corrupt” bank teller and other sources, officials said.

They would deposit the fraudulent checks into third-party accounts and withdraw the money in amounts under $10,000 to avoid any bank alerts. The bank teller accomplice was also paid a portion of the stolen cash, authorities said.

Using this method, Samuels “attempted to obtain at least approximately $1.2 million and caused actual losses of at least $400,000,” according to court documents.

Samuels also admitted to participating in a scheme to steal $14,250 from the California Employment Development Department (EDD) by submitting fraud applications for pandemic-related unemployment insurance.

He used stolen personal information belonging to victims who were either dead, living outside of California or ineligible for unemployment insurance.

After the EDD approved the applications, Samuels and his accomplices would withdraw the funds at ATMs.

Samuels faces up to 30 years in federal prison for the bank fraud conspiracy count and up to 10 years imprisonment for each count of illegally possessing firearms and ammunition.

A sentencing hearing is scheduled for October 23.

Samuels is a previously convicted felon with charges in Florida for aggravated battery on a law enforcement official with an enhancement for attempted murder, and unlawfully possessing firearms and ammunition.

In a related case, Samuels’ girlfriend, Sasha Lizette Jimenez, 26, pleaded guilty on May 22 to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud for running the EDD fraud scheme, officials said.

“Jimenez was the bookkeeper for the conspiracy, caused the issuance of at least $2.8 million in fraudulent UI benefit debit cards – and at least $2.3 million was withdrawn from those debit cards,” according to court documents.

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