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Social services supervisor sentenced in wire fraud scheme

A former state Social Services supervisor was sentenced to nearly three years in prison Friday after he admitted using the personal information of nearly 90 bank account holders in a scheme to steal more than $500,000.

Michael Bowman, 61 of Baltimore, pleaded guilty to wire fraud and was sentenced to 33 months in prison and three years of supervised probation.

Bowman came to the attention of federal investigators in September 2011, when a work email account at the Maryland Department of Social Services was flagged for suspicious activity. According to a plea agreement, one email contained an attachment with several names and bank account numbers.

Confronted, Bowman admitted to law enforcement agents that he was working with a man he had met online in October 2010 while he sought companionship. The man, who identified himself as "Steve," claimed to live in London and said he was interested in Bowman.

Steve promised to move in with Bowman in Baltimore if he helped Steve come up with the money to repair a house that Steve's late father had left him, court records said.

Steve introduced Bowman to his friend "David," who sent Bowman account numbers and personal identifying information of Bank of America customers. Bowman then impersonated the customers when talking to bank representatives over the phone.

The co-conspirators then set up accounts at other banks that they used to steal money from victims and transfer it to Steve, David and others, court documents say.

Neither of the other co-conspirators was charged, according to Marcia Murphy, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office in Baltimore, because investigators couldn't positively identify them.

"Over the course of the fraud scheme, Bowman accessed at least 88 individual accounts, resulting in an intended loss totaling $513,942.96," federal prosecutors said.

The only actual loss, prosecutors said, was $35,283 — which Bowman paid in restitution. Prosecutors said Bowman also wired about $10,000 of his own money to Steve and David.

The plea agreement acknowledged that Bowman also participated in a money order counterfeiting scheme.

Throughout the schemes, which ran for almost a year beginning in October 2010, prosecutors said Bowman never met Steve or David in person — communicating with them only online or by phone.

According to emails Bowman turned over to investigators, he stated his displeasure about being asked to impersonate older Bank of America customers and "despaired" about what would happen to them. A message left for the federal public defender who represented Bowman was not returned.

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