A Maryland man pleaded guilty Monday to scamming drunk Washingtonians by offering them late-night rides and convincing them to give him their ATM cards and personal banking information, racking up more than $200,000 in the process. The twist? Nyerere Mitchell conducted his scheme wearing a woman’s wig and padded breasts, pretending to be a female taxi driver behind the wheel of his silver Land Rover.
Mitchell, 50, ran his faux-taxi operation from April 2009 to November 2013, says the office of US Attorney Ron Machen. After donning his disguise, Mitchell drove to bar-heavy neighborhoods including Chinatown, Adams Morgan, and Dupont Circle, offering rides to young people who appeared to be intoxicated and looking for a way home. In order to get cash from his victims, Mitchell would pull up to drive-through ATMs that could only be accessed from the driver’s side. Mitchell would then ask his passengers to turn over their ATM cards and personal identification numbers and withdraw several hundred dollars rather than the $10 to $40 fares he advertised. He would then usually give back a different card he had stolen from someone else and use freshly swiped cards over the next several days to withdraw more money. Prosecutors say Mitchell conned enough people that he could easily substitute similar-looking bank cards so his victims didn’t realize until they sobered up.
Police turned up a shoebox containing 205 stolen ATM cards when they arrested Mitchell last November. They also found a wig he appeared to be wearing in a bank surveillance video. Mitchell pleaded guilty to five counts of felony fraud, each of which is punishable by up to ten years in prison. He was ordered to repay $228,036, and will remain behind bars pending his sentencing in October.