SANTA ANA—A Culver City man was sentenced to more than five years in federal prison late Wednesday for his participation in a check fraud network that involved several bank employees, announced André Birotte Jr., the United States Attorney in Los Angeles and Steven Martinez, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI in Los Angeles. The announcement was made on behalf of the joint investigative agencies, including the FBI, the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation, and the United States Postal Inspection Service.
United States District Judge David O. Carter sentenced Sean Bazille, 45, to 63 months in federal prison. Bazille was convicted at trial for his role in the check fraud scheme and was specifically found guilty of charges including conspiracy and bank fraud. Bazille, who acted as a middleman, worked closely with the main defendant in the case, Terry Massengill, 36 of Bellflower. Bazille distributed forged checks he received from Massengill and recruited runners to cash the fraudulent checks.
According to court documents, Massengill perpetrated the fraud by paying Wells Fargo employees to access and steal customer bank account information and provide it to Massengill. Throughout the fraud, Massengill and co-conspirators arranged to have checks in the names of legitimate Wells Fargo customers delivered to various addresses in multiple states. Checks were then forged and cashed in amounts that ranged from several thousand dollars to, in one case, $42,000. Co-conspirators who acted as check-cashers or “runners” would then return a portion of the funds to defendant Massengill. In addition, Massengill arranged for a co-conspirator to impersonate account holders and answer phone calls from Wells Fargo Bank employees seeking payment authorization. Massengill did this by altering the phone numbers associated with the account, then routing the calls to a phone number under his control. Wells Fargo has since modified its fraud prevention security procedures so that this particular fraud tactic can no longer be used.
Massengill previously pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 51 months in federal prison. Fifteen additional defendants in the case, including five former employees of Wells Fargo Bank in Los Angeles and Orange Counties, received sentences up to 64 months in federal prison. Wells Fargo suffered losses totaling $1,658,729. More than 100 bank accounts were compromised throughout the fraud, which began in 2002 and was reported to law enforcement in 2006.
This investigation was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, IRS-Criminal Investigation, and the United States Postal Inspection Service. The defendants were prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office. Wells Fargo Bank provided considerable assistance throughout this investigation.
FBI: 310 996-3343
UNITED STATES ATTORNEYS OFFICE: 213 894-6947