A West Michigan dragnet has resulted in felony convictions for 18 people — 17 of them from West Michigan, including three from South Haven — in an ongoing multi-state investigation into a bank card fraud scheme targeting more than three-quarters of a million dollars.
The Michigan ring leader, Tirrell Thomas of Kalamazoo, has been sentenced in Federal Court in Grand Rapids to 8.5 years in federal prison while Earl Cobb IV from Chicago will serve 6.5 years for his role in the fraud ring according to U.S. Attorney Andrew Birge. They led the scheme to defraud Bank of America through bank card fraud attempts.
U.S. Distric Judge Paul Maloney, sentenced Thomas, Cobb and the other defendants for their involvement in the bank card fraud scheme, which sought to obtain more than $780,000 from Bank of America and resulted in losses totaling $455,709. This is Thomas’s third federal felony conviction. He was convicted of federal drug trafficking offenses in 1999 and 2007.
The dragnet pulled in a total of 18 players in the scheme, including three South Haven residents. From South Haven, the three are Jerome Perry, James Langford, and Elnora Snipes. They and the following defendants were sentenced for their respective roles in the fraud scheme, including account-holders who opened or used Bank of America accounts to accept fraudulent check deposits and then make fraudulent withdrawals at banks and casinos, mid-level recruiters who accompanied and directed account-holders on trips to open bank accounts and withdraw funds, and the leaders and organizers of the scheme, who collected and divided the fraud proceeds:
- Tirrell Perry Thomas (Kalamazoo): 102 months in prison
- Earl Lee Cobb IV (Chicago): 78 months in prison
- Nickolas Maurice Fry (Kalamazoo): 41 months in prison, plus an additional 13 months in prison for a related federal supervised release violation
- Jerome Datra Perry (South Haven): 15 months in prison
- Josiah Nathan Preston (Wyoming): 14 months in prison
- Kyle Dwayne Mosley (Kalamazoo): 14 months in prison
- James Langford (South Haven): 12 months and one day in prison
- Darmesha Lakeya Gunn (Parchment): 11 months in prison
- Dwayne Edward Perry (Grand Rapids): 8 months in prison
- Tiffany Danielle Sanders (Sturgis): 4 months in prison
- Elnora Snipes (South Haven): 3 months in prison
- Desiree Analiese Winfield (Kalamazoo): 2 months in prison
- Antoine Naivon Younger (Kalamazoo): 1 month in prison
- Brenda Marie Davis (Kalamazoo): 1 day in prison
- Sean Allen Haney (Grand Rapids): 3 years of probation
- Kelsey Alice Thompson (Grand Rapids): 2 years of probation
- Kevin Lavelle Hunter II (Kalamazoo): 2 years of probation
- Crystal Kaye Pugh (Norton Shores): 2 years of probation
In addition to the prison and probation sentences, each defendant sentenced to prison will serve a period of supervised release after their custodial sentence, and each defendant was ordered to pay restitution to Bank of America ranging from $8,027 to $455,709, depending on the amount of actual loss for which they were held responsible.
The sentencings follow a 28-count indictment that was returned by a grand jury last August alleging that 19 people participated in a conspiracy to defraud Bank of America in November and December of 2015. The fraud was accomplished by using debit cards to withdraw funds from ATMs and casinos in Michigan, which had been fraudulently deposited into the bank accounts in Illinois, by Chicago co-conspirator Earl Lee Cobb IV. Eighteen defendants entered guilty pleas to at least one count in the indictment and one defendant, an account-holder, was allowed to enter a period of pretrial diversion, a form of probation without entry of a guilty plea.
This matter was investigated by the Detroit Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service in Chicago, with assistance from the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of Potawatomi Tribal Police Department. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kate Zell and Christopher O’Connor.