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Essex County Man Indicted in Scheme to Steal Checks and Defraud Banks

Publication date: 
Wednesday, February 22, 2023

NEWARK, N.J. – An Essex County, New Jersey, man was charged for his role in a scheme to steal and alter checks from the mail and fraudulently obtain funds from banks by depositing the stolen and altered checks, U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger announced today.

Baba Diakite, 21, of East Orange, New Jersey, is charged by indictment with bank fraud conspiracy, conspiracy to commit mail theft and possess stolen mail, the theft and possession of a U.S. Postal Service (USPS) key, and aggravated identity theft. Diakite was previously charged by criminal complaint in February 2022.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

From January 2020 to March 2022, Diakite and others conspired to steal checks from the mail in Essex, Hudson, Middlesex, Passaic, Somerset, and Union counties, which they then sold to third parties or deposited, sometimes in altered or duplicate form, into the bank accounts of complicit accountholders who had provided access to their bank accounts for the scheme. They obtained stolen official USPS arrow keys, which Diakite and others used to access mail and steal checks directly from USPS receptacles. Diakite targeted the accounts associated with the checks he stole and created false identifications in the names of the accountholders, which his conspirators used to make fraudulent withdrawals from those accounts.

The count of bank fraud conspiracy is punishable by a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison. The count of conspiracy to commit mail theft and possess stolen mail is punishable by a maximum penalty of five years in prison. The count of theft and possession of stolen USPS keys is punishable by a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. The count of aggravated identity theft is punishable by a statutory mandatory penalty of two years in prison, which must run consecutively to any other term of imprisonment. The bank fraud conspiracy count is also punishable by a fine of up to $1 million; all other charges are punishable by a maximum potential fine of up to $250,000 or twice the pecuniary gain or loss, whichever is greatest. 

U.S. Attorney Sellinger credited postal inspectors of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service in Newark, under the direction of Postal Inspector in Charge Christopher A. Nielsen, Philadelphia Division; special agents with the U.S. Postal Service - Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Matthew Modafferi, Northeast Area Field Office; and special agents with the Office of the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Andrew McKay, with the investigation leading to the charges. He also thanked the Clifton Police Department, Hillside Police Department, Livingston Police Department, Millburn Police Department, Port Authority NY-NJ Police Department, Roselle Park Police Department, South Plainfield Police Department, Warren Township Police Department, and Watchung Police Department for their assistance.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Tazneen Shahabuddin of the Asset Recovery and Money Laundering Unit in Newark.

The charges and allegations in the indictment are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Additional Details
USAO - New Jersey;
United States Postal Service OIG