Two South Florida brothers are now awaiting trial in federal court after being arrested and charged with making and passing counterfeit checks through accomplices in two local banks, according to court records.
Luis Miguel Gallo and Juan Gallo, both 21, were arrested April 17 after admitting to an undercover federal agent that their business was to forge and cash counterfeit checks, according to a criminal complaint filed by a special agent of Homeland Security Investigations, a unit of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
It is the latest case involving a possible conspiracy to defraud financial institutions in South Florida. Typically, these conspiracies involve mortgage fraud, but in this case the theft device was what investigators say were authentic-looking counterfeit checks.
A Homeland Security spokesman said he could not comment on the case because “it’s part of an ongoing investigation.” Lawyers for the Gallo brothers could not be reached for comment.
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The case began in February when a confidential source told investigators that the Gallo brothers manufactured and then deposited counterfeit bank checks with assistance from employees at a Bank of America branch and a Wells Fargo branch, both in South Florida, according to the criminal complaint. It does not identify the bank employees by name and does not say whether they were arrested or are now cooperating with authorities as possible witnesses against the defendants.
On Feb. 26, the complaint says, the undercover officer and the informant met with the Gallo brothers. They told the officer and the informant that they were capable of “cooking up” any counterfeit check a customer wanted.
“[Luis] Gallo stated that he manufactured counterfeit checks of the highest quality,” the complaint says. “Gallo assured the undercover officer that manufactured counterfeit bank checks were drawn from real bank accounts that maintained significant monetary balances.”
However, the Gallo brothers told the informant and undercover officer that they negotiated counterfeit checks in relatively small amounts to evade detection.
“[Luis] Gallo specifically stated that he usually negotiated counterfeit checks in amounts under $10,000,” the complaint says. “Under $10,000 did not require approval by a bank manager and as a result were easier to transact than counterfeit checks in amounts over $10,000.”
It was at that point that Gallo revealed that he had an accomplice who worked at a Bank of America branch near Sawgrass Mills, the complaint said. The Gallo brothers also claimed an accomplice inside a Wells Fargo branch near the corner of Flamingo Road and Sheridan Boulevard. The cooperating employees received between $1,000 and $2,000 per transaction depending on the amount of the check. In a subsequent conversation, one of the brothers indicated that the Wells Fargo employee was not as cooperative as before.
According to the complaint, the brothers operated from a house in a gated community in Miramar near the intersection of Silver Shores Boulevard and Dykes Road. They drove around in a white Bentley, according to the complaint.
Both brothers were indicted on May 1. They are now awaiting trial.
Follow Alfonso Chardy on Twitter @AlfonsoChardy