Essex County Man and Union County Man Charged with Scheme to Steal Checks and Defraud Banks

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Writing a check

NEWARK, N.J. – Two people were arrested today for their roles in a scheme to steal and alter checks from the mail by using stolen U.S. Postal Service keys that access mail receptacles and to fraudulently obtain funds from banks by depositing the stolen and altered checks, U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger announced.

Baba Diakite, 20, of East Orange, New Jersey, and Nasir Johnson, 22, of Hillside, New Jersey, are each charged by complaint with bank fraud conspiracy, conspiracy to commit mail theft and possess stolen mail, and the theft and possession of U.S. Postal Service keys. Both defendants are scheduled to appear by videoconference this afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Leda Dunn Wettre.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

From at least January 2020 to October 2021, Diakite, Johnson, and others conspired to steal checks from the mail in Essex, Hudson, Middlesex, Somerset, and Union counties. They sold the checks to third parties or deposited them, sometimes in altered or duplicate form, into the bank accounts of complicit accountholders who had provided access to their bank accounts for the scheme. Diakite obtained stolen official USPS keys, which he used to access mail and steal checks directly from USPS receptacles. Johnson also was in possession of at least one of those keys.

The bank fraud conspiracy is punishable by a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison. The conspiracy to commit mail theft and possess stolen mail is punishable by a maximum penalty of five years in prison, and the theft and possession of stolen USPS keys is punishable by a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. The bank fraud conspiracy also carries a fine of up to $1 million. All other charges are punishable by a maximum potential fine of up to $250,000 or twice the pecuniary gain or loss, whichever is greatest. 

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U.S. Attorney Sellinger credited postal inspectors of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, under the direction of Acting Inspector in Charge Raimundo Marrero; special agents with the U.S. Postal Service – Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Matthew Modafferi, Northeast Area Field Office; and special agents with the Office of the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, under the direction of under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Andrew McKay, with the investigation leading to today’s arrests. He also thanked the Hillside, Livingston, Millburn, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Roselle Park, South Plainfield, Warren Township, and Watchung police departments for their assistance.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Tazneen Shahabuddin of the Special Prosecutions Division in Newark.

The charges and allegations contained in the complaint are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.