Today, a Newark man was sentenced to 33 months in prison for his role in a conspiracy to steal checkbooks and credit cards from the postal system, Acting U.S. Attorney Rachael A. Honig announced.
Federal officials said Tashon Ragan, aka "Ta," 21, of Newark, previously pleaded guilty by videoconference before U.S. District Judge Susan D. Wigenton to an information charging him with one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud. Judge Wigenton imposed the sentence by videoconference.
According to officials, three of Ragan's conspirators, Jeffrey Bennett, 27, of Irvington, New Jersey, and Jahaad Flip, 22, and Janel Blackman, 42, both of Newark, pleaded guilty before Judge Wigenton earlier this year to conspiracy to commit bank fraud and are awaiting sentencing. Blackman also pleaded guilty to filing fraudulent applications with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) for Economic Injury Disaster Loans. According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
From February 2019 to May 2020, Ragan conspired to fraudulently obtain money from victim financial institutions by depositing counterfeit checks and checks stolen from the mail into accounts at victim financial institutions and withdrawing funds from those accounts before the fraudulent checks were identified and further withdrawals were blocked.
Ragan and his conspirators arranged for USPS employees to steal credit cards and blank checkbooks from the mail in exchange for cash payments. USPS employees provided the checks to Ragan and his conspirators.
Ragan and his conspirators forged the signatures of the accountholders. They negotiated the checks by making them payable to individuals, some of whom were New Jersey high school students and who had given Ragan and his conspirators access to their accounts, also in exchange for cash.
Ragan and his conspirators created counterfeit checks, including fake pandemic relief checks.
Ragan and his conspirators deposited the fraudulent checks online and at various bank ATMs throughout New Jersey. They later withdrew funds from the bank accounts before the victim financial institutions identified the checks as fraudulent and could block further withdrawals.
Ragan and his conspirators obtained and attempted to get approximately $366,000 from victim financial institutions.
In addition to the prison term, Judge Wigenton also sentenced Ragan to three years of supervised release and ordered him to pay restitution of $61,438.