WASHINGTON – Tricia Steele Boutros, a 41-year-old District of Columbia resident, pled guilty in federal court in the District of Columbia to a three-year scheme to defraud financial institutions and account holders of approximately $3.5 million by illegally accessing bank accounts.
Boutros, a licensed attorney in the District of Columbia, pled guilty to a criminal information charging her with bank fraud. According to court papers, Boutros frequently used an encrypted internet network, referred to as the “dark web,” that allowed her to conceal her identity and illicitly obtain login information for bank account holders. Boutros admitted to using the login information to access at least 30 different bank accounts from more than ten different financial institutions. Boutros also admitted to transferring money from those accounts to accounts she controlled personally and through entities she established, including her law firm, Steele Legal PLLC. Boutros also wrote fraudulent checks on some of the accounts she illegally accessed. Court papers state that Boutros made the fraudulent checks payable to herself, to entities she controlled, and to her creditors. Boutros further admitted that she used stolen identities and counterfeit identification documents to open bank accounts through which she facilitated the transfer of fraud proceeds for her benefit.
Court papers state that, in total, Boutros initiated or attempted to initiate at least $3.5 million in fraudulent transactions from the accounts that she illegally accessed. Some of those transfers were stopped before they were processed or were able to be reversed after the fraud was discovered. Boutros admitted to obtaining between $1.3 million and $2.2 million as a result of her fraud scheme.
Boutros pled guilty in United States District Court for the District of Columbia. United States District Judge Amit Mehta is presiding over the case. Sentencing is scheduled for September 16, 2020. The maximum penalty for bank fraud is 30 years in prison and a fine of not more than twice the amount of money Boutros gained through her fraud scheme.
The Washington Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation investigated the case. Assistant United States Attorney Elizabeth Aloi of the Fraud and Public Corruption Section is prosecuting the case.