It was an elaborate scheme that came to a screeching halt and now two New Jersey men are facing 30-years in prison for their roles in a bank fraud conspiracy.

U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger announced on Thursday that, Baba Diakite, 20, of East Orange and, Nasir Johnson, 22, of Hillside, were arrested for allegedly devising a scheme to steal and alter checks from the mail by using stolen U.S. Postal Service keys that access mail receptacles, and they also fraudulently obtained funds from banks by depositing the stolen and altered checks.

Diakite, and Johnson, are charged by complaint with bank fraud conspiracy, conspiracy to commit mail theft and possess stolen mail, and the theft and possession of U.S. Postal Service keys.

Their scheming went on for almost two years, between January of 2020 and October of 2021, and during that time, they brought in some help, allegedly conspiring with others to steal checks from the mail in parts of Essex, Hudson, Middlesex, Somerset, and Union Counties.

Attorney Sellinger said that after stealing the checks, Diakite, Johnson, and others would sell them to third parties or just flat out deposit them.

On some occasions, they would also alter or duplicate the checks and then deposit them into the bank accounts of complicit accountholders, who Sellinger said, had provided them with access to their bank accounts.

Diakite allegedly stole and then used official U.S.P.S. keys to access mail, and steal checks directly from U.S.P.S. receptacles, and Johnson also had at least one of those keys as well.

While the maximum penalty for the bank fraud conspiracy is 30 years in prison along with up to a $1-million dollar fine, Sellinger said that the conspiracy to commit mail theft and possess stolen mail is punishable by a maximum penalty of five years in prison, and the theft and possession of stolen USPS keys is punishable by a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, and each of these charges also come with a maximum potential fine of up to $250,000 or twice the pecuniary gain or loss, whichever is greatest.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Tazneen Shahabuddin of the Special Prosecutions Division in Newark.

Defense counsel:
Diakite: Husain A. Gatlin Esq., Newark.
Johnson: Charles Alvarez Esq., Bloomfield, New Jersey.

Here are New Jersey's Most Wanted Criminals