U.S. District Judge Alexander Williams, Jr. sentenced Michael James Brooker, 52 of Fort Washington, to five years in prison followed by three years of supervised release for conspiracy to commit identity theft and obstruction of justice. Judge Williams also ordered Brooker to pay restitution of $78,597.10.
Conspiracy to Commit Identity Theft
According to his and co-conspirators’ guilty pleas, from May 2003 to February 2004 Brooker and Theo Gerome Myers sought to enrich themselves by fabricating and filing deeds that transferred title to real estate in Maryland and the District of Columbia from the rightful owners to the names of persons whose identities they stole or created. Their plan was to reap the proceeds of the fraudulent transfers in one of two ways.
They attempted to sell real estate they did not own to unsuspecting buyers, or to fabricate purchases of the real estate in the names of persons whose identities had been stolen, and then secure financing from unsuspecting lenders in the names of the stolen identities.
To that end, they filed various fabricated deeds with the government in the District of Columbia and Prince George’s County. In one case, on July 17, 2003, a fabricated deed for property on P Street, Northwest, Washington, D.C. was filed purporting to transfer title from the rightful owner to a person purportedly named “Joyce Cotton.” Brooker then arranged for a co-conspirator, Margaret Black, to pose as “Joyce Cotton.” Black traveled to a title company in November 2003 for the settlement and successfully used a fraudulent driver’s license to impersonate the purported owner, causing the unsuspecting purchaser to pay more than $128,000 for the property. Several days later, Brooker and Black returned to the title company and using the fraudulent driver’s license, Black retrieved three checks totaling $128,597 which were the proceeds from the sale. The co-conspirators divided the money, with Brooker receiving $78,597.10.
In other cases, Brooker and his co-conspirators attempted to reap the proceeds from the fraudulent transfers by fabricating the subsequent purchases of the transferred real estate. Then they would obtain financing for the sales using a stolen identity with a favorable credit history. To obtain financing for the fabricated purchases, a conspirator acquired identifying information of several other individuals without their knowledge or authorization, including the names, social security numbers, and dates of birth of individuals residing in California from a credit reporting agency in Baltimore, Maryland. Brooker and his co-conspirators planned to use the stolen identities to prepare bogus sales agreements and loan applications for the fraudulently transferred properties to defraud lenders of more than $1 million.
Obstruction of Justice
In addition, while this prosecution was pending in federal court, from December 22, 2004 to October 6, 2005, Brooker endeavored to cause Myers to be absent from the trial to enable Brooker to cast blame on Myers for the fraudulent conduct described above. Brooker attempted to persuade Myers to flee the jurisdiction by arranging for Myers to receive funds, arranging for a place for Myers to stay in another state, and providing him with advice to evade detection of their arrangement.
Myers, age 54, of Ft. Washington, Maryland pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit identity theft and was sentenced to 15 months in prison and ordered to pay restitution of $50,000. Black, age 68, of Bowie, pleaded guilty to the