Indianapolis man charged with leading fraud ring that targeted Kroger

An Indianapolis man has been charged in a 10-count indictment for his alleged leadership role in a fraud ring that used thousands of forged checks at Kroger stores in at least 12 states.

Frank D. Powell, 28, faces seven counts of wire fraud, one count of attempted bank fraud, one count of aggravated identity theft, and one count of false statements to a financial institution, U.S. Attorney Josh Minkler announced Thursday.

Federal investigators say Powell organized a ring that used fraudulent checks to purchase gift cards and merchandise from stores throughout the country from January 2016 until last month.

Powell and his associates are accused of using more than 5,000 fraudulent checks in at least 30 different individual or business names, such as “Frank Pawell” and “Pawell Child Care LLC.”

After processing, the checks were returned to Kroger as “account closed, forged, non-sufficient funds or unable to locate account.”

“Individuals who defraud local business and banks drive up prices for all consumers,” Minkler said in written remarks. “Those who chose to swindle others in this district will be held accountable.”

Investigators say Powell also attempted to defraud a local bank and car dealership when he tried to obtain financing for the purchase a Cadillac Escalade using the identity of another person without the person’s knowledge.

Powell used the name, address and social security number of his victim in the March 12 scheme, along with a fake Illinois driver’s license that contained the victim’s information but Powell’s photograph, according to investigators.

Investigators say Powell’s ruse was discovered during the loan-application process, and he tried to bribe one of the dealership’s employees with a sofa to not report him.

Authorities say Powell could face up to 30 years in prison on the bank-related charges, up to 20 years for each of the wire fraud charge, and a mandatory minimum of 2 years on the aggravated identity theft charge, if convicted.

This case was investigated by the FBI and law enforcement personnel from Indianapolis, Hamilton County, Fishers, Carmel and Johnson County, and Kroger’s Organized Retail Crime Investigators, Central Division.

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