SANTA ANA, Calif.—A 26-year-old Placentia man pleaded guilty May 25 to a social media check fraud scheme of teaching people how to create false checks using Telegram chat groups, the U.S. Department of Justice said.
Meshach Samuels pleaded guilty to a count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and two counts of being a felon in possession of weapons, federal prosecutors said.
The scheme sought about $1.2 million, but led to at least $400,000 in losses, prosecutors said.
Samuels charged his social media followers thousands of dollars for tips on how to recruit accomplices in a check fraud scheme to rip off banks, prosecutors said. From May 2021 through March 2022, Samuels and others ran the scheme which involved stolen personal information and depositing fraudulent checks into third-party accounts, prosecutors said.
Once the money from the bad checks was credited to a bank account Samuels and others would withdraw the cash in amounts below $10,000 to avoid activating security protocols, prosecutors said.
Samuels also was involved in a scheme to steal about $14,250 in state unemployment benefits using the identities of dead people or others not eligible for the benefits, according to the plea agreement.
Samuels has a criminal history that includes aggravated battery on a police officer in Florida with an enhancement for attempted murder, prosecutors said. During an August 2021 traffic stop in Costa Mesa officers recovered a gun and ammunition on him, prosecutors said.
When federal agents searched Samuels’ home in March 2022 they found five guns and ammunition, prosecutors said.
Samuels is scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 23.
Sasha Lizette Jimenez, 26, the defendant’s ex-girlfriend pleaded guilty Monday in a related case to the state unemployment insurance fraud scheme, prosecutors said. Jimenez, who kept the books for the scheme, caused at least $2.8 million in fraudulent unemployment benefit debit cards to be issued and at least $2.3 million was taken from them, prosecutors said. Jimenez is scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 30.