NEW ORLEANS – U.S. Attorney Duane A. Evans announced that THIERNO O. BAH, age 30, a resident of New York, New York, pleaded guilty on July 21, 2021 to passport fraud conspiracy and aggravated identity theft before U.S. District Judge Sarah S. Vance. BAH is the second and final defendant to plead guilty in this case arising from an arrest in Metairie, Louisiana on February 19, 2020. BAH’s codefendant, Manuela Gonzalez-Bookman, also of New York, previously pleaded guilty in this case.
According to court documents, BAH and Gonzalez-Bookman flew from Newark Liberty International Airport to Louis Armstrong International on February 18, 2020. The following day they drove a rental car to a Capital One branch in Metairie. Gonzalez-Bookman entered the bank while BAH waited in the car outside. Gonzalez-Bookman then attempted to cash a stolen check while using a false passport card in the name of another person. When bank employees became suspicious, they called Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s deputies who arrested the pair. Federal agents subsequently determined that BAH and Gonzalez-Bookman had executed the scheme at several other bank branches while using stolen identities. The two individuals had even taken a prior trip to New Orleans on January 31, 2020, where they executed or attempted to execute at least seven fraudulent transactions, including a failed attempt to withdraw $18,600.00 in cash from one victim’s account.
Court documents further detailed how agents developed additional evidence connecting BAH to further fraud. Agents searched BAH’s phone after obtaining a search warrant and found additional stolen credit card numbers along with identities. In one example, BAH’s phone contained a photo of a handwritten note that included a victim’s name, address, social security number, date of birth, current account balance, and last transaction from the victim’s bank account. Agents used this information to corroborate further fraud committed by BAH.
Agents also learned that BAH had pending charges in the Supreme Court for New York, Bronx County. As set forth in BAH’s factual basis, he was pulled over by NYPD officers on July 31, 2019. During the traffic stop, BAH provided a fake ID to officers. The officers also observed credit card skimming paraphernalia in his vehicle. Officers subsequently seized a total of 29 credit cards, three drivers’ licenses, and a card skimming device. The Bronx District Attorney’s Office obtained an indictment charging BAH with 30 counts of criminal possession of a forged instrument second degree, 30 counts of criminal possession of a forged instrument second degree, one count of criminal possession of forgery devices, and one count of unlawful possession of a skimmer device in the second degree.
As to Count 1, passport fraud conspiracy, BAH faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison, a maximum $250,000.00 fine, and up to three years of supervised release. As to Count 3, aggravated identity theft, BAH faces a mandatory term of two years in prison that must be served consecutively to any other sentence, a maximum $250,000.00 fine, and up to one year of supervised release. Judge Vance scheduled sentencing for December 1, 2021.
The investigation is being handled by the U.S. Diplomatic Security Service and Homeland Security Investigations. U.S. Attorney Evans extended his thanks to the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office and the Jefferson Parish District Attorney’s Office for their assistance. U.S. Attorney Evans also thanked the Bronx District Attorney’s Office and the New York Police Department for their contribution to this successful prosecution. Assistant United States Attorneys Matthew R. Payne, K. Paige O’Hale, and J. Ryan McLaren are in charge of the prosecution.
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