CHARLOTTE, NC – Seven members of a Charlotte-area Hip Hop outfit known as Freebandz Gang (no relation to Future) went the extra mile in proving you can’t believe everything these rappers flaunt on YouTube and Instagram.
According to WSOCTV Charlotte, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department reports the aspiring rap group had been running an elaborate social media scheme where they solicit people to open a “straw” bank account for $500-$1,000 and then deposit altered checks — and make off with the cash before the banks even had a clue.
The indictment also accuses the group of running elaborate identity theft loopholes where they would use the info to buy cars and phones, and then flip them on the street — or resell them. Through all the capers, the Feds speculate that the group made off with roughly $1.2 million before they were busted.
“It is a lucrative business,” Sgt. Robert Sprague, a specialist of investigating financial crimes, told the outlet.
“Using other neighbors, friends, family, relatives as their victims. Absolutely, it makes it very dangerous,” Sprague said, citing how the Freebandz Gang allegedly paid people they may have previously known to open the bank accounts in order to have easy access to the newly created PIN numbers.
“It would be a surprise to everybody that it happens everywhere, every city,” Sprague said.
The official United States Department of Justice press release identifies the individuals as James Murray Willingham, Jr., 23, Damonte Withers, 27, Deandre Howze, 23, Jeffrey Monteith, 22, Quadarius Thomas, 23, Laerek Williams, 25 and Nemiah Davis, 25.
Every suspect resieds Charlotte and were all charged multiple counts of conspiracy, bank fraud, wire fraud, and aggravated identity theft while Withers and Thomas also face firearms-related charges.