Wanted: $55,737.02 in U.S. Currency. Last Seen in South Florida, Accused of Wire Fraud
Written by: Sam Orlando
Sometimes you read a legal document so bewildering, it makes you wonder if you've been beamed into an alternate universe where money not only talks, but can also be convicted. Welcome to the Southern District of Florida, where the United States is prosecuting $55,737.02 for wire fraud.
The Crime Spree of Dollar Bills and Cents
In an amusing legal spectacle that might as well be subtitled "Dead Presidents Gone Bad," U.S. authorities are in pursuit of approximately $55,737.02 formerly on deposit in two Citibank accounts. These accounts were allegedly brimming with ill-gotten gains procured through a fraudulent unemployment scheme in North Carolina.
Wire Fraud, but Make It Fashion
Federal law, particularly 18 U.S.C. § 981(a)(1)(C), allows civil asset forfeiture when property is derived from "specified unlawful activities," including wire fraud. If the idea of arresting money for wire fraud sounds ludicrous, wait until you hear the particulars of this escapade, which involved stolen identities, unemployment benefits, and multiple ATMs in sunny Miami.
L.S., the Unwilling Accomplice
Both accounts were in the name of an individual with the initials "L.S.," whose identity was exploited without consent. Despite his name being on the accounts, L.S. insists he's never so much as sniffed the crisp corridors of a Citibank.
The Not-So-Great Heist
Between December 2019 and June 2020, the targeted accounts were the grateful recipients of funds, deceptively claimed from the North Carolina Division of Employment Security. An admirable sum—enough to finance a rather lavish getaway—were it not now in the clutches of the United States Secret Service.
Case Not Closed
Federal agents were able to contact ten of the twenty-three people whose identities were exploited to fill the defendant accounts. Shockingly, none of them had filed for unemployment benefits in North Carolina, nor authorized anyone else to do so. Case agents are surely hoping the money will eventually break its stoic silence and reveal its criminal accomplices.
The Next Steps: A Trial for Money?
There's still a long road ahead for these fugitive funds. Will the accounts flip on their criminal creators in a bid for leniency? Will they be granted a fair trial and represented by competent legal tender? The money may not talk, but its upcoming fate will certainly say a lot about the peculiarities of American justice.
In the meantime, if you're strolling through South Florida and come across $55,737.02 just lying around, know that it's wanted for questioning.
Note: All sarcasm aside, civil asset forfeiture is a complex and controversial legal tool that has both supporters and critics. While it can serve a role in depriving criminals of the proceeds of illegal activity, it also raises significant concerns about due process and property rights. This case is ongoing and Breaking Through will bring you any updates on the fugitive cash, as they become available.