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Published on May 23, 2024
Illinois Man Pleads Guilty in $2.3M National Fraud Spree, Faces Decades Behind BarsSource: Library of Congress

An Illinois man, masquerading as a rap promoter, has admitted to being a key player in a massive $2.3M nationwide fraud scheme, the Justice Department announced yesterday. Antonio M. Strong, a 31-year-old from Lansing, pled guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, among other charges, after using stolen payment card information to finance a luxe lifestyle on someone else's dime.

According to court documents, Strong and his cohort, including Herbert Wright, Joseph Williams, and Demario Sorrells, defrauded numerous individuals and businesses from at least March 2016 through September 2020. They splashed out on private jet charters, luxury car rentals, and even designer puppies using unauthorized card details. Once the actual cardholders caught wind of the fraudulent transactions, the charges were reversed, leaving businesses in the lurch for the hefty bill.

Strong, who deceitfully claimed ties to labels like "Universal Music" and "Sony Music," employed fake identities and fabricated email accounts to obscure his tracks. His deception resulted in vendors doling out services and goods under false pretenses. The Justice Department's announcement underscored Strong's elaborate ruse, detailing how every facet of his fraud was carefully crafted to exploit the credibility of the music industry.

Under the weight of the justice system, Strong now faces a possible 20-year sentence per count, set to be delivered this coming September. Meanwhile, his accomplices have also succumbed to the law. Wright received three years probation earlier this January and was saddled with a $139,968 restitution order. His fellow conspirators, Williams and Sorrells, await their respective reckonings this summer, as another pair implicated in the scheme prepare for trial come October.

The investigation, helmed by the U.S. Secret Service with Trial Attorneys Andrew Tyler and Kyle Crawford spearheading the prosecution, demonstrates a concerted effort by federal agencies to clamp down on wire fraud schemes that ensnare unwitting victims nationwide. Nicole M. Argentieri, the Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General, alongside other officials, declared the guilty plea, signaling that those who weaponize the digital economy for their fraudulent ends will be met with appropriate force.