Fresno, California - On January 28, a federal grand jury in Fresno indicted Selma couple Marquis Asaad Hooper, 30, and Natasha Renee Chalk, 37, charging them with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, and aggravated identity theft, U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott announced.
According to court documents, Hooper was stationed in Japan as a chief petty officer with the Navy’s Seventh Fleet until October 2018. His wife, Chalk, was a naval reservist stationed at Naval Air Station Lemoore in California. Hooper separated from the Navy in October 2018. Shortly before Hooper’s separation was final, Hooper and Chalk fraudulently obtained access to a database containing millions of people’s personal information. The company that operates the database only grants access to legitimate businesses and government agencies and only for business or government purposes, such as police departments attempting to locate suspects or banks confirming the information in account applications.
In late August 2018, Hooper contacted the company, falsely claiming that the Seventh Fleet needed access to the database to run background checks on Navy personnel. Based on that information, the company approved the account. Hooper signed the company’s subscriber agreement, purporting to act on behalf of his fleet. In reality, Hooper was not acting on behalf of his fleet, and Hooper did not access the database for a legitimate government purpose. Instead, he added Chalk, who was not a member of his fleet, and other individuals to the database account. Over the next approximately two and a half months, Hooper and Chalk searched for tens of thousands of individuals on the database and sold the information they obtained on those individuals to third parties in exchange for bitcoin. The third parties used the information to commit identity theft.
For instance, in November 2018, a man in Gilbert, Arizona, attempted to withdraw money from another person’s bank account using a fake driver’s license created with information Hooper had retrieved from the database. The company shut down Hooper’s and Chalk’s database account in December 2018. Three months later, they tried again to get access to the database through one of Hooper’s Navy contacts stationed on the U.S.S. George Washington, docked in Newport News, Virginia. Hooper had the contact falsely state that another Navy member, L.B., was the contact’s supply officer. Hooper and Chalk then conspired to send the contact a subscriber agreement for the database, a fake driver’s license for L.B., and a fake letter from the contact’s commanding officer, all containing forged signatures.
This case is the product of an investigation by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Homeland Security investigations. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Vincente A. Tennerelli and Joseph D. Barton are prosecuting the case.
If convicted, Hooper and Chalk face a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison on the conspiracy and wire fraud charges and a mandatory two-years in prison, consecutive to any other sentence, on the aggravated identity theft charges. Any sentence, however, would be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables. The charges are only allegations; the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.