Of all the things...
If Rick Ross didn’t prove that the hype can’t always be trusted with “Idols Become Rivals,” the indictment of Charlotte-based rap group Freebandz Gang surely will. The seven-member collective — James Murray Willingham, Jr., 23, Damonte Withers, 27, Deandre Howze, 23, Jeffrey Monteith, 22, Quadarius Thomas, 23, Laerek Williams, 25, and Nemiah Davis, 25 — is being charged with several counts of conspiracy, bank fraud, wire fraud, and aggravated identity theft. Two of the members will separately face firearm-related charges.
While the way they got caught is unclear, the elaborate scheme was bound to end badly. Local news outlet WSOCTV Charlotte spoke to authorities on the case, who said the tactic was “lucrative” but “dangerous.”
As found by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, Freebandz members had been using social media to get people to open “straw” bank accounts for $500-$1000. Once the accounts were open, they would deposit altered/fraudulent checks, withdrawing the funds before the banks were on to any suspicious activities.
The group earned themselves the aggravated identity theft charge by allegedly running ID theft loopholes, in which they would use other peoples’ personal information to make big and small purchases, like cars or expensive phones. They would then resell the merchandise on the street for a profit. Federal agents estimate Freebandz members touched about $1.2 million.
“It is a lucrative business,” Sgt. Robert Sprague ― a specialist of investigating financial crimes ― told WSOCTV Charlotte. Sprague revealed that the group quite possibly roped people they knew into opening back accounts for them, making the PIN numbers easily accessible. “Using other neighbors, friends, family, relatives as their victims. Absolutely, it makes it very dangerous,” he said.
When they said ‘fake it till you make it,’ formulating a million-dollar bank and identity theft scheme wasn’t really what they meant. Coming up the honest way is hard, but pausing your aspirations to do jail time is much harder.
Remember Carlton Carter?
The 30-year-old aspiring rapper was caught pretending to be a construction worker at a New Jersey TD Bank. Before the last stunt, he and his team had hit several other Manhattan banks, raking in about $80,000.
The Manhattan District Attorney had an easy case against Carter, especially since he was caught bragging about the hits on the phone during an intercepted call. “S**t like taking candy from a baby… I had the neon s**t, the vest, hanging from the waist like it was a bandana,” Carter was recorded saying.
In the 36-count ID theft case, Carter and his counterparts faced scheme to defraud, grand larceny, criminal facilitation and a string of other charges. Plus, all of his possessions were seized, as authorities believed anything of value he had was purchased with illegally obtained money.
His hip-hop career, much like the career of FreeBandz, didn’t have a chance after the bust.
It ain’t safe
Let’s not forget, Katie Got Bandz was recently arrested for identity theft as well. In August of this year, the rapper known for her track “Pop Out” missed a few court dates too many for the June charge, forcing the judge to issue a warrant for her arrest. While the court initially planned to hold her without bail, it was lessened to a $50,000 bond.
She got out the day after her arrested after being given a fresh court date.
While the details of her case were few and far between, she must have settled it. The day after Christmas, the rapper tweeted, “MY LIFE IS SO F**KEN LIT,” alongside several emojis.
For aspiring rappers everywhere… Let Carter, Freebanz Gang, and even Kaite Got Bandz be a cautionary tale. Stop running schemes, kids! Tell us your thoughts in the comments and SHARE this article.