HAMPTON, Va. (WAVY) — A Hampton man has pleaded guilty to stealing money in a scheme using Tinder and other means to get money from Navy sailors, many involving Navy Federal Credit Union accounts.
Trequan M. Smith, of Hampton, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud and aggravated identity theft on March 8 in federal court.
His sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 8, 2022. He faces up to 32 years in prison, although actual sentences are typically lower than the maximum. He also must pay restitution to the fraud victims.
According to a statement of facts filed March 8 in federal court, Smith recruited at least five coconspirators to help him defraud people through various means between April 2020 and October 2021.
According to documents, Smith and his coconspirators:
- Posed as Navy Federal Credit Union employees and contacting account holders to get information to gain access their accounts,
- Targeted sailors in the Navy by posing as women interested in romantic relationships on apps such as Tinder,
- Used accounts they previously accessed by phishing to transfer funds to other targeted sailors,
- Asked sailors to withdraw the illegally transferred funds, often through a ploy that they were helping a relative in the Navy who was trying to send them money,
- Met sailors by internet and met in-person in various parts of Eastern Virginia to obtain the fraudulent proceeds.
In April 2021, Smith and his coconspirators gained access to a victim’s account by posing as a bank employee alerting them about a fraudulent purchase.
They then transferred $18,750 to another person’s bank account. Smith and the others then convinced the second victim to withdraw about $9,500 under false pretenses and hand it over in cash at Rosie’s Gaming Emporium in Hampton.
The victim withdrew an additional $3,000 in cash at Swami Food Store in Hampton, and then 11 money orders for $500 each at Western Union inside a Food Lion store.
Smith and his coconspirators did similar transactions several times to multiple people, and gained tens of thousands of dollars from the fraudulent exchanges.
Court documents state: “The foregoing victims of the fraud scheme are almost all junior members of the United States Navy and of limited financial means. They suffered hardship from the defendant and his coconspirators’ scheme and artifice to defraud.”
According to authorities, Smith also tricked one of his coconspirators into telling him sensitive information about the investigation into the scheme after he realized she had been in contact with the authorities. He confronted her, which ended in a violent altercation in a car that resulted in Smith slamming her head into the passenger window, pulling out part of her hair extensions and choking her.