Man Pleads Guilty to Fraud Scheme Targeting Navy Servicemembers

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FILE PHOTO: The U.S. Department of Justice Building is pictured

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. – A Newport News man pleaded guilty today to conspiring to defraud Navy Federal Credit Union and its members out of money and property.

According to court documents, from approximately April to August 2021, Samari Smith, 20, conspired with at least four other people to commit credit union fraud by convincing account holders to withdraw and turnover funds to them under false pretenses. Smith and his coconspirators targeted sailors in the United States Navy on online dating applications like Tinder by posing as women interested in a romantic relationship. Smith and his co-conspirators asked the victimized Sailors to withdraw and turnover funds – often under the guise of helping a relative in the Navy who was trying to send them money. 

Samari Smith was directly involved in defrauding four Sailors in the Navy who were then stationed in the Hampton Roads metropolitan area, which caused more than $40,000 in fraud losses to these victims. Two co-conspirators previously pleaded guilty, including the leader of the conspiracy, Trequan Smith, 21, of Hampton and Emani Burton, 23, also of Hampton. The broader fraud conspiracy orchestrated by Trequan Smith victimized dozens of Sailors in the Navy and caused hundreds of thousands of dollars of fraud loss.

Samari Smith pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud and is scheduled to be sentenced on January 27, 2023. He faces a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison. Trequan Smith pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud and aggravated identity theft. He faces a mandatory minimum of two years in prison and a maximum penalty of 32 years in prison. Burton pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud and was sentenced to a term of one day of incarceration and three years of supervised release.  

Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Jessica D. Aber, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; Tira A. Hayward, Acting Inspector in Charge of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service’s Washington Division; and Frederick Franks, Special Agent in Charge of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) Norfolk Field Office, made the announcement after U.S. District Judge Arenda Wright Allen accepted the plea.

This case was investigated under the leadership and coordination of the Newport News Financial Crimes Task Force.

Assistant U.S. Attorney D. Mack Coleman is prosecuting the case.

A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Related court documents and information are located on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case Nos. 4:22-cr-56, 4:21-cr-67, and 4:21-cr-68.