Michael Williams Sentenced
Georgia Man Sentenced to Federal Prison in Bank Fraud Scheme that Exploited Homeless Rhode Islanders
PROVIDENCE, R.I. – A Georgia man convicted for his role in a scheme in which Providence area homeless and transient individuals were recruited to cash hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of counterfeit business checks in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Maine, in exchange for cash payments, was sentenced today to 41 months in federal prison.
Michael Williams, 26, of Atlanta, GA, pleaded guilty on July 7, 2021, to conspiracy to commit bank fraud.
“This defendant’s actions in this case resulted in substantial losses, but equally if not more importantly, his actions managed to victimize some of society’s most vulnerable in an effort to line his pockets, recruiting them to take the risk for his benefit,” remarked U.S. Attorney Cunha. “Today’s sentence appropriately reflects the harm this defendant’s scheme caused, both financially and to individuals.”
According to charging documents and information presented to the court, from October 2018 through February 2021, numerous homeless individuals were arrested at banks throughout the region when they attempted to cash counterfeit business checks. When questioned, many reported similar stories, stating they were approached by one or more males in Providence and offered the opportunity to cash bogus checks in return for cash payments. Williams was one of the men who approached these homeless individuals. Once an individual agreed to cash a check, Williams and others created a counterfeit check made payable to that person, generally in the amount of $2,000 or more, and then drove him or her to a bank to cash it. Individuals were often paid approximately $100 per check that they successfully cashed.
According to court documents, on February 5, 2021, Williams and another person recruited and drove a homeless person to a Providence bank to cash a check, and threatened to injure the man if he failed to provide them with all the proceeds. From inside the bank, the man pointed to a vehicle parked outside of the bank containing the individuals who provided him with the counterfeit check. Providence Police located the vehicle a short distance away, arrested Williams, and seized $12,000 in cash.
A court-authorized search was conducted at a Providence residence that law enforcement determined Williams used when in Rhode Island; that search resulted in the seizure of items used to create counterfeit checks; including a computer which contained a program used to design and print checks, a printer, blank check stock, an envelope containing numerous stolen checks, and approximately $5,000 in cash.
The investigation determined that using homeless and itinerant individuals, Williams and others attempted to cash approximately $677,687 worth of counterfeit checks throughout the New England region, causing actual losses to financial institutions of approximately $480,000.
Appearing today before U.S. District Court Chief Judge John J. McConnell, Jr., Michael Williams was sentenced to 41 months in federal prison to be followed by 3 years of federal supervised release. Williams was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $480,000.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Lee H. Vilker.
The matter was investigated by the United States Secret Service.
United States Attorney Cunha thanks the Providence and Medway, MA, Police Departments for their assistance in the investigation of this matter.