NORFOLK, Va. – A Portsmouth man was sentenced today to 18 years in prison for illegal possession of a firearm as a convicted felon, aggravated identity theft, and credit union fraud.
“With today’s sentence, the defendant has been held accountable for the serious nature of his crimes, including his recruitment of over 50 co-conspirators to participate in an extensive fraud scheme involving the Dark Web that inflicted significant financial loss on numerous victims,” said Raj Parekh, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “Thank you to our law enforcement partners for risking their lives to apprehend the defendant following his reckless high-speed chase during which he placed community members in danger. We appreciate the hard work and dedication of all our partner agencies who helped bring the defendant to justice on behalf of the victims in this case.”
According to court documents, between December 2018 and January 2019, Armad Jamall Gatling, aka “Peso Chapo,” 26, a dealer for a drug trafficking organization based in Portsmouth, sold cocaine to a cooperating source four times. In July 2019, Gatling sold an AR-style rifle to the cooperating source, who Gatling knew to be a convicted felon.
On September 11, 2019, after he was federally indicted, Gatling fled in his vehicle from pursuing Chesapeake Police Department law enforcement officers, traveling as fast as 120 mph, running red lights, driving into oncoming traffic on a bridge, and finally abandoning the vehicle and fleeing on foot, at which point he was arrested. Police searched his vehicle and recovered nine credit cards in other people’s names, a credit card swipe reader, a license with Gatling’s photo but listing a different name, and a security baton.
A court-authorized search of Gatling’s social media accounts and electronic devices revealed that, from January 2019 to September 2019, he was part of a check fraud scheme in which he recruited others to open credit union accounts, then deposited counterfeit checks into those accounts and quickly withdrew the funds before the fraud was detected. He also spearheaded a scheme in which he used Personal Identifying Information (PII) illegally obtained from the Dark Web to create cloned credit cards, and then used the credit cards to purchase trailers, lawn equipment, motorcycles, and other property, which he resold. One of Gatling’s devices contained PII for dozens of victims. Gatling recruited more than 50 co-conspirators to participate in his scheme, resulting in at least 50 victims suffering financial losses totaling more than $368,000.
Raj Parekh, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; Charlie J. Patterson, Special Agent in Charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ (ATF) Washington Field Division; George D. Purefoy, Resident Agent in Charge of the U.S. Secret Service’s Norfolk Resident Office; Gregory Scovel, Special Agent in Charge of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) Norfolk Field Office; and Col. K.L. Wright, Chief of Chesapeake Police, made the announcement after sentencing by Senior U.S. District Judge Rebecca Beach Smith.
This case is part of Operation High Tide, a proactive, large-scale narcotics trafficking and firearms investigation that focused on high-impact targets driving crime in some of the hardest hit neighborhoods in Hampton Roads.
Assistant U.S. Attorney William Jackson prosecuted the case.
This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), which is the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s violent crime reduction efforts. PSN is an evidence-based program proven to be effective at reducing violent crime. Through PSN, a broad spectrum of stakeholders work together to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in the community and develop comprehensive solutions to address them. As part of this strategy, PSN focuses enforcement efforts on the most violent offenders and partners with locally based prevention and reentry programs for lasting reductions in crime.
A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Related court documents and information are located on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case No. 2:19-cr-153.