Lagardo Wright, 21, of Fairview Heights, Illinois, was sentenced to 27 months in federal prison today for orchestrating a large-scale bank fraud scheme.
From at least February 2019 until February 2020, Wright led a team of coconspirators that printed counterfeit checks, deposited them into other people’s bank accounts, and withdrew the available proceeds before the banks could determine the checks were counterfeit. Their scheme targeted at least ten different financial institutions and caused losses over $95,000.
During the conspiracy, Wright’s main objective was finding valid bank accounts to exploit. Because the banks closed each account for fraud after his counterfeit checks inevitably bounced, Wright needed a constant supply of new account holders with valid bank accounts to perpetuate his scheme. He solved this problem by developing and directing a network of “recruiters.” These middlemen convinced naive account holders to turn over their online banking information, including usernames, passwords, and pin numbers, in exchange for the promise of money.
Whenever a recruiter found an account holder willing to participate, Wright accessed the account holder’s bank account online, adjusted deposit and withdrawal limits, printed counterfeit checks, and arranged for as many fraudulent transactions as possible before the banks caught on and closed the account. Then he waited for his recruiters to bring him a new account or tried to solicit some on his own.
Wright and his recruiters found new account holders mostly through social media and cellphone apps, where they flaunted their “success” to attract followers. Wright posted pictures and videos of cash, expensive clothing, guns, drugs, and screenshots of bank accounts showing large account balances. He and his recruiters implored their online followers to contact them if they had a valid bank account and wanted to make thousands of dollars. Of course, Wright never mentioned that he got the money by committing bank fraud in the account holders’ names, or that the account holders would lose their ability to bank and have red flags on credit reports for years to come. In fact, if young account holders seemed hesitant, Wright and his recruiters assured them that everything was legitimate and they couldn’t get in any trouble.
During sentencing, United States District Court Judge David Dugan noted that Wright committed serious crimes by leading a long-term enterprise that was sophisticated for his age. In addition to the prison sentence, Judge Dugan ordered Wright to spend 4 years on supervised release and pay over $30,000 in restitution.
Two of Wright’s coconspirators, Aijeigh McShan and Cedric Sheard, have pled guilty and will be sentenced next month. McShan’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for March 9, 2022. Cedric Sheard will be sentenced on March 16, 2022.
The investigation was conducted by the United States Postal Inspection Service. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Luke J. Weissler.