RALEIGH, N.C. – Eight defendants pleaded guilty today to offenses contained in a 50-count, 2nd Superseding Indictment charging various forms of Bank Fraud, Wire Fraud, Conspiracy to Commit Bank Fraud, Making False Statements to a Bank on Loan, Aggravated Identity Theft, and Perjury. Two additional defendants previously pleaded guilty in connection with the same scheme.
The indictment charges that defendant Michael Griffin, operating from his business location in Raleigh and home in Knightdale, accepted fees from clients for alleged credit repair services. The indictment alleges that, in reality, Griffin was creating fictitious credit profiles and fraudulently altering client credit data through the use of fictitious police reports.
The indictment further charges that various defendants, many of whom were family, conspired with Griffin to defraud Synchrony Bank, a Lowe’s credit card provider, by opening credit accounts in the name of fraudulent identities, cashing out the accounts through prepaid card purchases, and then defaulting on the credit accounts. The indictment also charges various defendants with similar frauds against other banks, including Capital One and Discover.
Regina Griffin (Michael Griffin’s sister), 49, of Raleigh, North Carolina, pled guilty to Count 29 of the 2nd Superseding Indictment, which charged False Statement to Influence a Bank on a Loan, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1014. The offense occurred between February 11, 2019 and March 19, 2019, and involved Alcova Mortgage, LLC.
Angela Griffin (Michael Griffin’s wife), 53, of Knightdale, North Carolina, pled guilty to Count 13 of the 2nd Superseding Indictment, which charged Bank Fraud and Aiding and Abetting, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1344 and 2. The offense occurred between November 21, 2017 and December 21, 2017 and involved Synchrony Bank.
Creshun Alexandria Griffin (Michael Griffin’s daughter), 27, also of Knightdale, pled guilty to Count 16 of the 2nd Superseding Indictment, which charged Bank Fraud and Aiding and Abetting, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1344 and 2. The offense occurred between August 11, 2017 and December 31, 2018, and involved Capital One Bank.
Sharon Annita Edmond (Michael Griffin’s sister), 57, of Raleigh, pled guilty to Count 25 of the 2nd Superseding Indictment, which charged Wire Fraud and Aiding and Abetting, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1343 and 2. The offense occurred on or about April 16, 2018 and involved Strategic Funding Partners, doing business as Merchant Cash Group.
Katina Griffin Perry (Michael Griffin’s sister), 48, of Raleigh, pled guilty to Count 27 of the 2nd Superseding Indictment, which charged Wire Fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1343. The offense occurred between August 21, 2017 and September 19, 2017 and involved Kia Motor Finance.
Harvey Griffin (Michael Griffin’s brother) 47, of Raleigh, pled guilty to Count 11 of the 2nd Superseding Indictment, which charged Bank Fraud and Aiding and Abetting, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1344 and 2. The offense occurred between October of 2017 and January of 2018 and involved Synchrony Bank.
Melvin Griffin (Michael Griffin’s brother), 45, of Knightdale, pled guilty to Count 18 of the 2nd Superseding Indictment, which charged Bank Fraud and Aiding and Abetting, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1344 and 2. The offense occurred between October 5, 2017 and August 31, 2018, and involved Discover Bank.
Jasmine Mariah Davis, 29, of Lakeland, Florida, pled guilty to Count 12 of the 2nd Superseding Indictment, which charged Bank Fraud and Aiding and Abetting, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1344 and 2. The offense occurred between October of 2017 and February of 2018 and involved Synchrony Bank.
Acting United States Attorney G. Norman Acker, III stated, “The charges in this case largely involve the use of a false Social Security Number to obtain money, credit, or other valuables, under a false identity. Synthetic identity frauds such as these often involve the use of what are referred to as “CPNs” or alternate “credit profile numbers.” These are nothing but fancy sounding terms for Social Security Numbers that do not belong to you. The public needs to know that when you place a fraudulent Social Security Number or CPN on a bank credit application or loan document – you are committing a fraud, and you could face federal prison time for it.”
The maximum punishment for committing Bank Fraud and Conspiracy to Commit Bank Fraud, violations of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1344 and 1349, is not more than 30 years in prison. The maximum punishment for Wire Fraud, a violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1343, is not more than 20 years imprisonment. The maximum punishment for Making a False Statement to a Bank on a Loan is not more than 30 years in prison.
The sentencings for each of these defendants are not yet scheduled, but will occur as early as October 2021.
Shawn Allen Farmer, 52, of Cary, North Carolina, also named in the Second Superseding Indictment, previously pled guilty to Bank Fraud and Aiding and Abetting, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1344 and 2, and Making False Claims, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 287. FARMER was sentenced on May 27, 2021 to 15 months in prison, and ordered to pay $42,783 in restitution.
Tyrone Edmonds, 47 of Weldon, North Carolina, also named in the Second Superseding Indictment, previously pled guilty on February 8, 2021 to Count 6, which charged Bank Fraud and Aiding and Abetting, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1344 and 2. The offense occurred between July of 2017 and August of 201, and involved Synchrony Bank. The sentencing is not yet scheduled but will also occur as early as October of 2021.
Charges against Michael Griffin, Jasper Deonta Goodman, and Coscina Brooks, also named in the Second Superseding Indictment, remain pending. An indictment is an allegation of a crime. The defendant is presumed under the law to be innocent until proven guilty.
G. Norman Acker, III, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina made the announcement. The investigation was conducted by the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation with the assistance of the United States Marshals Service and the United States Postal Inspection Service. Assistant United States Attorney William M. Gilmore represents the United States.
Related court documents and information can be found on the website of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina or on PACER by searching for Case No. 5:20-CR-245-1D(2).
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How to improve your credit score in 2021: Easy and effective tips
If you’ve ever wondered “What is my credit score?” it’s probably time to find out. Having a good credit score can make life a lot more affordable. If you’re about to buy a house or car, for example, the higher your credit score is, the lower your interest rate (and therefore, monthly cost) will probably be.
Your number may also be the deciding factor for whether or not you can get a loan and ultimately determine if you are even able to buy something you want or need.
So, yes, the goal is to have the highest possible credit score you can, but increasing the number doesn’t just happen overnight. There are important steps to take if you want to increase your score, and the sooner you start working on it, the better.
“If you’re trying to increase (your credit score) substantially to accomplish a goal, you’re really going to have to have as much lead time as possible,” said Thomas Nitzsche, director of media and brand at Money Management International, a nonprofit financial counseling and education provider that advises people on how to legally and ethically improve their credit score on their own.
If you have fair credit and you’re trying to improve the number for a house purchase, for instance, you’ll want to start working on it at least a year in advance, he explained to TMRW.
But even though that sounds like a long time away, you can (and should!) start doing things right now to bump that number up. Below, see seven things you should do — and not do — to help improve your credit score:
1. Review your credit report
The first thing you’ll want to do is pull up a copy of your current report so you know where you stand. You can get free reports from all three agencies — TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax — at annualcreditreport.com. Nitzsche said it’s important to take a moment and understand the financial snapshot of where you are today and where you want to be.
You’ll also want to take some time and look for any errors on your report, which could negatively impact your score. “If your name is misspelled, that’s not going to hurt your score,” he explained. “But if you see a late payment or missed payment (that’s in error), or maybe you have an account that should be reporting but isn’t, then that’s a problem and that will impact your score.”
If there is an error, you should dispute it and try to provide as much proof as you can.
One other thing: You can also ask a creditor to remove an issue if it’s been corrected (i.e., if you paid off a collection debt). Nitzsche said it doesn’t hurt to ask and the worst thing they could say is no.
2. Have good financial habits
“The biggest part of your credit score is payment history, so the most critical thing is never missing a due date,” Nitzsche said. Set up a monthly autopay or add all due dates to your calendar so you never miss a bill.
You can also achieve a higher score when you mix different types of accounts on your credit report. It may seem counterintuitive to get extra points for having debt in the form of student loans, mortgages and auto loans, but as long as you’re paying them off responsibly, it shows that you’re reliable.
3. Aim to use 30% or less of your credit at any given time
Know your credit card limit, and try not to use any more than 30% of that number each month, otherwise your score could lose points for too much credit utilization.
Another thing you can do is ask your bank to increase your limit. “That will give you more flexibility to spend more,” Nitzsche said. You could also pay it off twice a month to keep the balance low. But he does warn that you never know when the balance is going to be reported to the bureau. It can happen at any point during the month, so it might be the day after you make the payment or the day before. “You don’t necessarily want to use the card and pay it the next day because that doesn’t give the bureau the chance to know that you’re using it,” he said.
4. Avoid requests for new credit
If you’re looking to increase your score around the time you want to buy a house or car, you won’t want to open up a new line of credit, like a retail card, credit card or loan. That’s because “hard” credit inquiries like those can lower your score, and sometimes it comes down to a few points over whether you’re approved or what your rate will be, Nitzsche said.
“Soft” credit inquiries, like when an employer checks your credit or when you pull your own report, won’t affect your score.
5. Keep all accounts open, even ones you don’t use anymore
Even if you don’t use that credit card from college, it’s a good idea to just keep it open because closing it could hurt your score. Nitzsche explained that you’ll be dinged some points for each account that is closed. If you want or need to mentally break up with a card, just cut it up instead.
6. Build your credit if needed
If you haven’t established credit yet, you might not even exist … in the credit report space, that is! “If someone has never fallen in delinquency on any subscriptions or utilities or never had collections on anything and they have not utilized credit cards or loans in the past seven to 10 years, they may not have a credit profile at all,” Nitzsche said. “That presents a challenge when you want to buy a home.”
If this sounds familiar, you may have to get a secured credit card where you put down a deposit, he advised. “You still have to make payments and use it responsibly. Not all banks offer them but you can usually check with your local bank or credit union.”
7. Reach out for help
There are many apps and credit-monitoring services that can help you stay on top of your credit score. You could also reach out to a professional credit counselor who can help you navigate your specific situation. (Here’s a good resource about finding a reputable service.)
One last thing: Nitzsche warned that everyone should beware of credit repair scams that claim to be able to increase credit scores for an advance fee to get accurate negative information removed (even temporarily) from credit reports.
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