YOUNGSTOWN — A Stowe man who works in the nightclub business has pleaded guilty to 15 count charges in a scheme to defraud money through online wire transfer services at several Walmart stores in the area, in federal prison. was sentenced to three years in prison.
Prosecutors said the Walmart transactions took place locally in Warren, Boardman and Liberty, while the local banks targeted were in Poland, Canfield and Austintown.
John Lee Watkins Jr., 33, faces another charge dealing with a scheme to raise funds for the CARES Act. had pleaded guilty to
He was also ordered to pay $325,413 in damages along with co-defendants Valerie M. Masongsong and Terrell Tomlin.
Watkins, who also pays $1,500 in special court fees, must remain under three years of surveillance upon his release from prison. Watkins is being held in the Mahoning County Jail.
According to the indictment, Watkins and his two co-defendants were accused of illegally using Walmart2Walmart. This is a money transfer service that allows a customer to initiate a money transfer at his one Walmart store and have it picked up by a person at another Walmart store.we
According to the indictment, Watkins, Mathonson, and Tomlin were charged with using false identities and reporting fraudulent bank transfers between August 31, 2016 and November 13, 2019.
One such illegal transaction occurred in May 2018 and was initiated by Masongsong at two Walmarts in Nevada. A few days later, Masongsong and Watkins contacted their bank and reported the transfer as fraudulent. Watkins impersonated another man in Liberty Township and Stow who took money from Walmarts. On May 30, 2018, Wells Fargo returned the money to his Masonsong account.
Other Walmarts covered by the trio’s plans included stores in Warren, Boardman, Streetsboro, Kent and Canton. Local banks covered by the scheme include Key Bank branches in Poland and Canfield, Chemical Bank in Poland, Farmers National Bank branches in Poland, Austintown and Woodforest Bank locations within the Austintown Walmart. was included.
On January 6, Watkins also pleaded guilty to another lawsuit filed by Pearson in federal court in Youngstown.
He pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and three counts of wire fraud. In that case, Pearson handed Watkins his April 11 sentencing.
The indictment accused Watkins and co-conspirator Tomlin of applying for CARES Act funding in April and July 2020 for non-existent companies.
According to the indictment, Watkins owned Diamond Nightlife, a bar on Wyndham Ridge Drive in Stowe that has been in operation since September 28, 2018, employs 10 people and has gross revenues of $132,900. And since that time, I’ve spent $3,000 on items sold.
“Diamond Nightlife did not actually operate as a bar and the revenue figures listed on the application were fraudulent,” the indictment states, adding that the address listed for the business was in an apartment complex. It is pointed out that it is an apartment.
Based on false information, the Small Business Administration approved Diamond Nightlife’s CARES Act application for $54,000 and also approved an advance loan of $10,000.
In March 2021, Watkins requested an additional $25,000 loan from SBA, but SBA did not fund the request, the indictment states.
The indictment also alleges that Watkins was involved in the Se7en nightclub, a bar it said opened on August 1, 2018, employed 11 people, had gross revenue of $135,000 and spent $22,450 on merchandise. filed a false CARES Act application against That application gave the address of his Se7en nightclub at 1743 S. Raccoon Road in Austintown.
In fact, the Se7en nightclub ceased operations prior to February 1, 2020, when the CARES Act program began, the indictment says. Based on false information, the SBA approved his Se7en nightclub application for $56,300.
The indictment said Watkins had applied for another SBA loan totaling $20,000 for the nightclub, but the additional amount was not funded by the government.
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