NEWARK, N.J. – A Union County, New Jersey, woman today admitted that she obstructed an investigation by destroying documents, Acting U.S. Attorney Rachael A. Honig announced.
Latoyia McCollum, 46, of Hillside, New Jersey, pleaded guilty by videoconference before U.S. District Judge Brian Martinotti to an information charging her with obstruction of justice.
According to documents filed in the case and statements made in court:
On Oct. 6, 2020, federal law enforcement officers executed a search at a location pursuant to a court-authorized search warrant. Prior to the execution of the search, Maurice Mills had been charged by complaint with wire fraud for fraudulently obtaining more than approximately $400,000 in unemployment insurance benefits from the state of New York. These fraudulently obtained benefits were often provided on a credit/debit card or by wire transfer into a bank account, where a debit card could then be used to withdraw the money.
Upon entering the location, law enforcement officers observed McCollum in the kitchen area next to a shredder that was on a counter. She was placing what appeared to be a credit/debit card into the shredder while on a face-to-face communication on a handheld mobile device. Law enforcement officers thereafter recovered from the shredder the shreds of what appeared to be a credit/debit card and approximately four credit/debit cards that had been placed into the shredder, but which had not been fully shredded. Law enforcement officers also recovered four credit/debit cards that were on the counter next to the shredder.
After being read and waiving her Miranda rights, McCollum stated that when law enforcement officers entered the location she was on the phone with Mills, who had instructed her to shred the credit/debit cards. Mills pleaded guilty on Sept. 20, 2021, to one count of wire fraud and is scheduled to be sentenced in February 2022.
The charge of obstruction of justice is punishable by a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of the greater of $250,000, twice the gross profits to McCollum or twice the gross loss suffered by the victims. McCollum is scheduled to be sentenced March 16, 2022.
Acting U.S. Attorney Honig credited special agents of the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Acting Special Agent in Charge Jonathan Mellone in Manhattan; special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge George M. Crouch Jr., in Newark; postal inspectors of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, under the direction of Acting Inspector in Charge Raimundo Marrero in Newark; and special agents of the U.S. Secret Service, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Mark McKevitt in Newark, with the investigation leading to today’s guilty plea. She also thanked the New York State Department of Labor, Office of Special Investigations for its assistance in the investigation.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Kogan of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Cybercrime Unit in Newark.
Defense counsel: Candace Hom Esq., Assistant Federal Public Defender, Newark