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Investigative Press Release
Issuing Office: Brooklyn NY
Category: Financial Fraud

Six Defendants Charged with Defrauding Court-Appointed Criminal Defense Attorneys

Defendants Deposited Stolen Checks Paying Court-Appointed Attorneys for Representing Indigent Defendants

Earlier today, at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn, two indictments were unsealed charging six defendants with defrauding court-appointed criminal defense attorneys.  As alleged in the indictments, the defendants deposited stolen checks intended to reimburse the attorneys for their time and expenditures representing indigent defendants in federal court.  Three defendants also allegedly stole the identity of an attorney and opened bank accounts using the attorney’s stolen identity.  Five defendants are scheduled to be arraigned this afternoon before United States Magistrate Judge Taryn A. Merkl at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn.  One defendant is still at large.

Today’s indictments are the first charges brought in the government’s ongoing criminal investigation into the widespread theft and depositing of checks issued to participants in the federal criminal justice system.  The investigation has identified over $1 million in checks issued by the Department of the Treasury on behalf of the Administrative Office of the United States Courts that have been stolen and deposited into unauthorized accounts since 2021.  The intended recipients of these checks include court-appointed criminal defense attorneys, paralegals, investigators, translators, court reporters, and jurors.

Breon Peace, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Daniel Brubaker, Inspector-in-Charge, United States Postal Inspection Service, New York Division (USPIS) and Tammy Whitcomb Hull, Inspector General, United States Postal Service Office of Inspector General (USPS OIG) announced the charges.

Mr. Peace expressed his appreciation for the New York City Police Department and United States Marshals Service for their assistance in this case.


The stolen checks charged in the two indictments were intended to pay private attorneys who serve on the Criminal Justice Act (CJA) Panel in the Eastern and Southern Districts of New York.  When a criminal defendant cannot afford an attorney, the court often appoints a member of the CJA Panel to handle the representation.  The Department of the Treasury issues checks to the CJA attorney on behalf of the Administrative Office of the United States Courts, which is sent by mail to the CJA attorney’s address of record.  In particularly complex criminal cases, reimbursement checks can exceed $100,000.  When a reimbursement check is lost or stolen, issuance of a replacement check typically takes several months—a process that leaves the CJA attorneys uncompensated for a significant time as they await a new check.

United States v. Tyquan Robinson, Ada Tavarez, and Markel Washington

As alleged in the indictment and court documents, Ada Tavarez impersonated a CJA attorney and then opened bank accounts using that CJA attorney’s stolen identity.  In or about June 2023, Tavarez presented fraudulent identification documents to a bank teller with the CJA attorney’s personal data, including a driver’s license with Tavarez’s photograph along with the CJA attorney’s name and birthdate.  On the account opening paperwork, Tavarez listed a fraudulent email account containing the CJA attorney’s personal identifiers in the email account name.

After the bank opened the accounts in the name of the CJA attorney, Tavarez returned to the branch several days later.  She then attempted to deposit a stolen $125,386.81 check containing a forged signature for the CJA attorney.

The defendants Markel Washington and Tyquan Robinson facilitated this scheme with Tavarez.  Washington accessed the fraudulent bank accounts online.  When the bank placed a hold on the check, Washington made several calls to the bank asking that the funds be released.  Also, saved in Washington’s iCloud account were several versions of the same photograph of Tavarez printed on the fraudulent driver’s license with the CJA attorney’s name and personal data. 

Robinson contributed to this scheme by accessing the fraudulent email account that had been created using the CJA attorney’s personal identifiers and submitted to the bank at account opening.  Robinson also listed his telephone number as the fraudulent email account’s recovery telephone number.  In addition, a note in Robinson’s iCloud account contained the CJA attorney’s personal data.

The defendants have been charged with bank fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud.  Tavarez has also been charged with one count of aggravated identity theft.

United States v. Nicholas Barton, et al.

As alleged in the indictment and court documents, between at least November 2020 and October 2022, the defendants Nicholas Barton, Richard Reid and a third co-defendant participated in a scheme to cash checks issued to third parties into accounts over which the defendants had access and control.  One of the stolen checks they deposited was issued to a CJA attorney in the amount of $14,856.  After the CJA attorney’s stolen check was cashed in Reid’s bank account, all three defendants benefited from its proceeds, by withdrawing cash from ATMs, making purchases at stores and restaurants, transmitting payments among each other and to others through cash transfer mobile applications, and booking flight tickets.  Each defendant has been charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud; wire fraud; and bank fraud.

The charges in the indictments are merely allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Assistant United States Attorney James R. Simmons is in charge of the prosecutions, with assistance from EDNY Special Agents Anthony Cunder and Rebecca Sidhu.