December 19, 2012
Philadelphia area counterfeit check ring broken; 10 charged in ongoing investigation
HARRISBURG - Agents from the Attorney General's Organized Crime Section have arrested 10 Philadelphia residents accused of participating in an organization allegedly responsible for producing and cashing approximately $40,000 worth of counterfeit business checks.
Attorney General Linda Kelly said the checking account details for at least four businesses were allegedly copied and stolen by a former teller at a Sovereign Bank branch located in Dresher, Montgomery County, identified as Latosha Mabry, 25, of 2119 Anchor St., Philadelphia.
According to the criminal complaint, Mabry provided the stolen information to an individual known only by the nickname, "Beans," who allegedly operated a counterfeit check scheme.
Other participants in the scheme allegedly opened personal bank accounts, deposited counterfeit checks into those accounts and then used ATM machines to withdraw cash, or allowed their bank cards to be used for cash withdrawals, before the fraud was discovered. In most cases the forged checks, were for amounts ranging from $3,000 to $5,500.
Kelly said that in at least one instance, Christopher Canty allegedly served as a recruiter and intermediary for the organization - approaching August Pauline about participating in the scheme and then purportedly arranging a meeting between Pauline and "Beans" in order to transfer a counterfeit check to be deposited and cashed.
Pauline allegedly drew others into the operation - contacting Tyisha Nixon about making money cashing counterfeit checks.
Others accused of depositing counterfeit checks as part of this scheme include Salahudin McDowell, Katrina Love, Tyisha Nixon, Latasha Buie, Terrance Joyner, Michael Bullins and Jesse Warren, all of Philadelphia. All were allegedly approached by various unnamed members of the organization with solicitations to participate in the scheme.
According to the criminal complaint, many of the participants were paid $300 to $400 in order to open bank accounts, deposit the counterfeit checks and then turn over their debit cards so that stolen funds could be withdrawn.
Kelly said that investigators have identified approximately $40,000 in transactions involving counterfeit checks that were cashed by members of this organization. Efforts to identify other participants and organizers of this scheme are ongoing.
The defendants will be prosecuted in Montgomery County by Chief Deputy Attorney General Erik L. Olsen of the Attorney General's Organized Crime Section.
Kelly thanked the Montgomery County District Attorney's Office and Sovereign Bank for their cooperation and assistance with this ongoing investigation.
All of the defendants were taken into custody on Tuesday, December 18th and preliminarily arraigned before Ambler Magisterial District Judge Patricia Zaffarano.
The following is a list of the defendants who have been charged:
Each of the defendants has been charged with forgery, which is a second-degree felony punishable by up to ten years in prison and a $15,000 fine.
Additionally, the defendants are all charged with theft by unlawful taking, theft by deception, receiving stolen property, identify theft and criminal conspiracy, all third-degree felonies which are each punishable by up to seven years in prison and $15,000 fines.
They are also charged with bad checks, a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine, along with securing documents by deception, a second-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to two years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
(A person charged with a crime is presumed innocent until proven guilty)