A couple faces charges that they helped orchestrate a ring that managed to remove more than $1.4 million from several unfortunate people's accounts at banks in Uphams Corner, Kendall Square and Peabody.
Emeka Iloba and Emmelyn Clough were arraigned Thursday in US District Court in Boston on one count each of conspiracy to commit bank fraud for alleged account thefts in 2017 and 2018; they now face possible sentence of up to 30 years in prison if convicted.
Several other people, including bank tellers, were arrested as early as 2018; some are now cooperating with the FBI in its investigation into Iloba and Clough in the hopes of obtaining reduced sentences in their own cases.
Prosecutors allege the tellers earned several thousand dollars in fees for helping Illoba, Clough and others withdraw victims' money.
Iloba and Clough were released on personal recognizance, on the condition they surrender their passports. Iloba was also ordered to undergo substance-abuse screening. They are next scheduled to appear in court on April 1.
According to an affidavit by an FBI agent on the case, the gregarious Iloba and Clough recruited a series of bank tellers, runners and document forgers to use fake IDs to withdraw money at one bank and then launder it through accounts they'd set up at other banks.
One of the alleged conspirators was a guy with whom Iloba would chat as they waited in line for coffee at a Dunkin' Donuts; another was somebody Clough had become friendly with online, the affidavit states.
The affidavit describes thefts involving six separate victims at a Santander branch in Uphams Corner, a Bank of America branch in Kenmore Square and a TD Bank branch in Peabody.
On April 6, 2017, the affidavit states, one of the couple's runners went into the Santander branch in Uphams Corner, looked for the teller who was in on the conspiracy and showed fraudulent ID in the name of a trustee of an irrevocable trust with an account at the bank. The runner asked for two banker's checks, totaling $275,000. He returned the next day and made a cash withdrawal of $9,800.
On April 26, two other conspirators took one of the checks to a TD Bank branch in West Roxbury and opened an account for a fake company, using a real person's ID information. The next day, the person who had made the withdrawals in Uphams Corner went to the West Roxbury bank and deposited one of the checks, for $175,500, into the newly created account.
Another person, Antonio Niati of Lynn, was indicted in 2018 for his role in the Santander scheme, specifically for recruiting the unnamed teller at the bank who would help the rink remove money from two accounts. In 2019, he agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud and aiding and abetting aggravated identity theft. He has yet to be sentenced, however.
In December, 2017, a conspirator named Dave Guillaume, who is awaiting his own trial and who may not be cooperating with the feds because he is named in the affidavit, opened a bogus account for a fake company at a Somerville bank, according to the affidavit. A little more than two months later, the affidavit continues, a ring member with fake ID walked into a Bank of America branch in Kenmore Square, withdrew $230,000 in the form of a bank check made out to the fake company.
In September, 2017, according to the affidavit, the ring ran a similar operation involving two innocent people's home-equity lines of credit at a TD Bank branch in Peabody.