Man pleads guilty to fraud scheme targeting Navy personnel | USAO-EDVA

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

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

Samari Smith was directly involved in the fraud of four Navy sailors who were then stationed in the Hampton Roads metropolitan area, which resulted in over $40,000 in fraud losses to these victims. Two co-conspirators had previously pleaded guilty, including conspiracy leader Trequan Smith, 21, of Hampton and Emani Burton, 23, also of Hampton. The larger fraud plot orchestrated by Trequan Smith resulted in dozens of Navy casualties and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fraud losses.

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

Actual sentences for federal crimes are generally lower than the maximum sentences. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering US sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors.

Jessica D. Aber, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; Tira A. Hayward, Acting Inspector in Charge of the Washington Division of the United States Postal Inspection Service; 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 matter was investigated under the direction and coordination of Newport News’ Financial Crimes Task Force.

Assistant United States Attorney D. Mack Coleman is prosecuting the case.

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

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