The opinion of the court was delivered by: Robert Sweet, Senior District Judge
On February 4, 2003, Marija Arnjas, a/k/a/ Marija Melih, a/k/a Maria Melih ("Arnjas"), pled guilty to one count of uttering a forged security, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 513 (a), and one count of failure to appear, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 3146(a)(1).
The investigation into the instant offense was conducted by agents of the U.S. Secret Service.
Arnjas was employed by Hurricane Entertainment Corp. as a bookkeeper in their Manhattan office between June 1998 and November 2000. As part of her duties in the office, Arnjas had ciccess to the company's checkbook. [ Page 2]
During the period of July 1599 through October 2000, six checks totaling $210,025.23 were made out" in the name of BTL Production Service, Inc., one of Hurricane's regular vendors, which has its offices in California. Although the checks had been negotiated, the checks were never actually received by BTL. Although it was Hurricane's policy to require officer approval for any check over $5,000, no approval for these checks had ever been sought or obtained.
Bank records revealed that each of the six checks had been deposited into an account at Nationsbank, now known as Bank of America. That account had been opened at an Orlando, Florida branch of Nationsbank in the name of BTL Production Services, Inc., a name identical to that of the real BTL except for the addition of an us" at the end of the word "Service." An Orlando address was listed on the false BTL account.
A review of Florida corporate filings by the case agent indicated that the false BTL was incorporated in December 1999. The registered agent for the corporation was listed as "Marija Melih," and the incorporation papers were signed by "Maria Melih."
Bank records show that the person who deposited one of the six checks had used a New York State driver's license as identification. New York State Department of Motor Vehicles records showed that the driver's license number was assigned to [ Page 3]
Arnjas Bank records also indicated that various transactions linked the false BTL account with other Nationsbank accounts. The first such account was held in the name of First Services Travel, with "Maria Melih" as the contact person. Two addresses were listed on this account during the relevant period, one which was the same Orlando address as on the false BTL account, and one in Pompano Beach, Florida. A second pair of accounts in the name of "Marija Melih" was also found, also under the Pompano Beach address.
Bank records also revealed that the false BTL account was opened with a $100 transfer from the First Services Travel Account. Three transfers totaling $61,000 were made from the false BTL account to the First Services Travel account. Two transfers totaling $46,858 were made from the false BTL account to the Marija Melih accounts.
On January 4, 2000, there was both a withdrawal by debit card from the false BTL account and a balance inquiry for the Marija Melih accounts at the same ATM at Chelsea Piers in Manhattan. On February 26, 2000, there was a withdrawal from both the false BTL account and the Maria Melih account from the same ATM in Harrison, New York. Bank records also showed that there were numerous withdrawals by debit card made from the false BTL account ctt ATM machines located at various locations in WestChester County, New York. The case agent noted that the defendant lived nearby [ Page 4]
these locations, in Rye Brook, New York.
On August 1, 2002, an arrest warrant was issued for Arnjas. She was arrested on August 6, 2002. Arnjas was release on that date on $100,000 PRB, signed by her husband, and secured by $5,000 cash. Arnjas's travel limits were restricted to the Southern and Eastern Districts of New York, and she was ordered to surrender all travel documents. Arnjas was also placed on regular pretrial supervision.
On August 16, 2002, a bench warrant was issued for the defendant's arrest due to her failure to report to the Pretrial Services Office as directed. Arnjas also failed to appear for her scheduled preliminary hearing on September 5, 2002, or at any time thereafter.
On September 28, 2002, Arnjas was arrested for an unrelated offense in the Northern District of California. The outstanding bench warrant from the Southern District of New York was subsequently discovered. Arnjas was later returned to the Southern District of New York on October 18, 2002.
According to Hurricane, their losses totaled $210,025.23. There were five transfers of funds made from ...