By: Richard L. Smith
An East Orange man admitted his role in a scheme to steal and alter checks from the mail and fraudulently obtain funds from banks by depositing the stolen and altered checks, U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger announced today.
Federal officials said Baba Diakite, 21, was indictment with bank fraud conspiracy, conspiracy to commit mail theft and possess stolen mail, the theft and possession of a U.S. Postal Service (USPS) key, and aggravated identity theft.
A criminal complaint previously charged Diakite in February 2022.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
From January 2020 to March 2022, Diakite and others conspired to steal checks from the mail in Essex, Hudson, Middlesex, Passaic, Somerset, and Union counties, which they then sold to third parties or deposited, sometimes in altered or duplicate forms, into the bank accounts of complicit accountholders who had provided access to their bank accounts for the scheme.
They obtained stolen official USPS arrow keys, which Diakite and Nasir Johnson, 22, of Hillside, accessed mail and stole checks directly from USPS receptacles.
Diakite targeted the accounts associated with the checks he stole and created false identifications in the names of the accountholders, which his conspirators used to make fraudulent withdrawals from those accounts.
The count of bank fraud conspiracy is punishable by a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison.
The count of conspiracy to commit mail theft and possess stolen mail is punishable by a maximum penalty of five years in prison.
The count of theft and possession of stolen USPS keys is punishable by a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.
The count of aggravated identity theft is punishable by a statutory mandatory penalty of two years in prison, which must run consecutively to any other term of imprisonment.
The bank fraud conspiracy count is also punishable by 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