Durham County

Durham man who posed as clergyman sentenced to 94 months in fraud scheme

A Durham resident has been sentenced in federal court on charges of carrying out a scheme to defraud Durham businesses and aggravated identity theft.

Gary Patterson, 31, was sentenced to 94 months in federal prison on Nov. 28 by Loretta C. Biggs, United States District Judge for the Middle District of North Carolina. Patterson had previously pleaded guilty to charges of wire fraud and aggravated identity theft in violation of federal law.

The charges were related to a scheme to defraud Durham businesses by Patterson portraying himself as a local clergyman.

Patterson defrauded dozens of small businesses by making numerous fraudulent credit card purchases, court documents stated. He made these transactions by convincing merchants to “force” the sale after the worthless and unauthorized credit card presented by Patterson was rejected by the bank.

A merchant can “force” a transaction where the bank issuing the credit card has rejected the credit card purchase. Normally, the merchant contacts the bank and requests a code to authorize the transaction despite the bank’s rejection of the card.

Patterson convinced numerous merchants to force transactions that had been rejected by the card issuer. He often presented himself as being a pastor or bishop associated with a Durham church including “Bishop Gary Johnson” and “Pastor Ed Johnson.” Using the “forced” transaction scheme and a variety of stolen credit cards, Patterson obtained money, goods and services from the defrauded merchants.

The United States Department of Treasury Office of Inspector General and the Durham Police Department participated in the investigation of this case.