Irvington man admits conspiring to steal mail and commit bank fraud

NEWARK, NJ — Jeffrey Bennett, 27, of Irvington, has admitted his role in a conspiracy to steal checkbooks and credit cards from the mail; deposit fraudulent checks, including pandemic relief checks; and use stolen credit cards without authorization, acting U.S. Attorney Rachael A. Honig announced Sept. 15.

Bennett pleaded guilty by videoconference before U.S. District Judge Susan D. Wigenton to an information charging him with one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court, from February 2019 to May 2020, Bennett conspired to fraudulently obtain money from victim financial institutions by depositing counterfeit checks and checks stolen from the mail into accounts at these financial institutions and withdrawing funds before the financial institutions identified the fraudulent checks and blocked further withdrawals. Bennett and his conspirators arranged for U.S. Postal Service employees to steal credit cards and blank checkbooks from the mail in exchange for cash payments. USPS employees provided the checks to Bennett and his conspirators, who forged the signatures of the account holders and negotiated the checks by making them payable to individuals, some of whom were New Jersey high school students, who had given Bennett and his conspirators access to their accounts, also in exchange for cash. Bennett and his conspirators obtained and attempted to obtain approximately $366,000 from victim financial institutions.

Two of Bennett’s conspirators, Tashon Ragan, 22, of Hillside, and Jahaad Flip, 22, of Newark, previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud and are awaiting sentencing. USPS employee Janel Blackman, 42, of Newark, pleaded guilty Sept. 16 to stealing checkbooks and credit cards from the mail while employed as a U.S. Postal Service clerk and filing fraudulent applications for loans intended for small businesses experiencing disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The conspiracy charge is punishable by a maximum potential penalty of 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million. Sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 19, 2022.