Providence man convicted of large-scale bank fraud and COVID small business loan programs | USAO-RI
PROVIDENCE, RI – A Providence resident was sentenced today to five years in federal prison for using stolen personal identification information (PII) from unsuspecting individuals to defraud banks and retailers, and for fraudulently solicited more than $3.3 million in small business loans for companies affected by the pandemic, U.S. Attorney Zachary A. Cunha announced.
Courtney Hilaire, 29, pleaded guilty on December 20, 2021 to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, fourteen counts of wire fraud and two counts of aggravated impersonation. He was sentenced today by U.S. District Court Judge William E. Smith to 60 months in federal prison, followed by three years of federal probation.
Hilaire’s involvement in bank fraud and credit card fraud schemes was uncovered by Warwick Police on July 3, 2020, when officers found Hillaire and two other men sleeping inside a vehicle stolen from a Warwick hotel car park. Inside the vehicle, officers discovered eighteen cell phones and other electronic devices; a list of the corresponding stolen identities and PII; equipment used to transfer information onto magnetic strips of credit cards; 44 counterfeit credit cards and numerous fraudulent driver’s licenses from multiple states; and approximately $13,000 in $100 and $50 bills net and clean.
A forensic audit of electronic devices by Homeland Security Investigations revealed links to folders containing patterns to create credit cards, fraudulent driver’s licenses, currency, and a link to lists of PII available at purchase on the “dark web”.
A month after he was arrested by Warwick Police, Pawtucket Police encountered Hilaire in a rental vehicle; on that occasion, he was found in possession of three cell phones, nearly $3,000 in cash, and eight debit cards tied to fraudulently obtained Pennsylvania unemployment benefits accounts. A forensic cell phone audit revealed numerous sets of stolen PII and evidence of involvement in Small Business Administration loan fraud.
Following their ongoing investigation into Hilaire’s fraudulent activities, Homeland Security Investigations arrested Hilaire in April 2021. During a search of his home, officers seized $47,119 in cash; eleven cell phones and two laptops; and devices used to create fraudulent credit cards. When officers arrived at her residence, Hilaire was filing a fraudulent claim online for COVID-related unemployment benefits with the state of Alabama. A forensic audit of cellphones and computers found in her residence revealed that Hilaire had filed 60 fraudulent COVID economic disaster loan applications with eight states, including Rhode Island, with a projected loss to the program of 3 $328,695. Loans totaling $328,700 have been issued.
Forensic auditors also uncovered evidence that Hilaire spent time online collaborating with and advising other potential fraudsters, and providing them with documents and advice on economic fraud.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney William J. Ferland.