NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — A Newport News man pleaded guilty on Tuesday to conspiring to defraud Navy Federal Credit Union and its members.

According to court documents, from approximately April to August 2021, 20-year-old Samari Smith conspired with at least four other people to commit credit union fraud by convincing account holders to withdraw and turnover funds to them under false pretenses.

The group targeted sailors in the United States Navy on online dating apps like Tinder by posing as women interested in a romantic relationship. They would then ask the sailors to withdraw and turnover funds – often under the guise of helping a relative in the Navy who was trying to send them money. 

Investigators say Smith was directly involved in defrauding four sailors who were then stationed in Hampton Roads, which caused more than $40,000 in fraud losses to the victims.

Two co-conspirators previously pleaded guilty, including the leader of the conspiracy, Trequan Smith, 21, of Hampton and Emani Burton, 23, also of Hampton. The broader fraud conspiracy orchestrated by Trequan Smith victimized dozens of Sailors in the Navy and caused hundreds of thousands of dollars of fraud loss.

Smith pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud and is scheduled to be sentenced on January 27, 2023. He faces a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison.

Trequan Smith pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud and aggravated identity theft. He faces a mandatory minimum of two years in prison and a maximum penalty of 32 years behind bars.

Burton pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud and was sentenced to a term of one day of incarceration and three years of supervised release.