Bucks County Detectives Investigating Fraudulent Check Ring
Bucks County detectives have identified at least 16 suspects in a large-scale Pennsyvania check fraud ring. Approximately half have already been arraigned and are currently free on unsecured bail, and arrest warrants have been issued for the remaining suspects. According to allegations made by T.D. Bank, which is headquartered nearby in Cherry Hill, members of the ring fraudulently obtained nearly $30,000 in funds by posing as affiliates of an international football organization.
Counterfeit Checks Add Up to Nearly $30,000
From February 25 to March 15, approximately 30 checks were cashed at various T.D. Bank locations scattered throughout Philadelphia County and Bucks County. The checks were all made in amounts greater than $800 but less than $1,000, and all drew from an account associated with an international, New York-based nonprofit called Street Football World USA, Inc.
Collectively, the checks added up to a grand total of $28,902.56. While the precise distribution of funds among the alleged counterfeiters is unknown, that total works out to an average of $1,806.41 per person.
On April 2, approximately two weeks after the date of the final check, officials with T.D. Bank reached out to Bucks County detectives, concerned that the transactions were illegitimate. The checks were subsequently identified as counterfeits based on several unusual details.
To begin with, their serial numbers were identified as those associated with online checking, while the checks themselves had actually been in paper form. Additionally, their signatures did not match signatures which T.D. kept on file. Finally, representatives from Street Football World stated their organization had never heard of the persons who were cashing the checks, nor had the company authorized any of the two dozen-plus withdrawals.
To Detective Eric Landamia, these were all serious red flags. He launched a broad investigation into the matter, and so far, no fewer than 16 suspects have been identified and charged with various felonies and misdemeanors related to white collar crime and theft.
10 Suspects Arraigned, Arrest Warrants Issued for Remaining Six
Of the 16, a total of 10 suspects have already been apprehended and arraigned, including seven on Tuesday, August 12. Among the seven arraigned on Tuesday, they range in age from 20 to 36, though most are in their twenties. Nearly all live in Trenton, with the exception being one Ericka Anders, age 35, who resides in Levittown, Pennsylvania.
They were arraigned before Magisterial District Judge John Kelly Jr., and were charged with multiple felony and misdemeanor offenses including forgery, conspiracy, and theft. All seven from that group have since been released on $10,000 unsecured bail.
Under 234 Pa. Code Rule 524, unsecured bail means that a defendant does not have to pay, but will be held “liable for a fixed sum of money if he or she fails to appear as required, or fails to comply with the conditions of the bail bond.” (Under Rule 526, some of those conditions include making all court appearances, giving written notice about any change of address, and avoiding criminal activity.)
One other defendant — 22-year-old Joseph Hicks of Trenton — was arraigned the following day; once more before Judge Kelly, and once more free on unsecured bail in the amount of $10,000.
Bringing the total to 10 out of 16, two additional defendants — 25-year-old Michael Keane of Ewing, New Jersey, and 20-year-old Terrence Ridley of Trenton — were arraigned back in June. Both are currently free on a higher unsecured bail of $25,000.
The remaining six suspects have not yet been taken into custody, though arrest warrants have been issued. All six live in Trenton, and all are aged between 21 and 32 years old.
If the alleged members of this counterfeiting ring are convicted, they could be facing extremely serious penalties, particularly regarding the Pennsylvania forgery charges.
In Pennsylvania, this crime (which is covered by 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 4101) can in some instances be charged as a misdemeanor — but the charges in this case are on the felony level.
Under § 4101, felony forgery can be charged in the third or second degree. You can be charged with third degree felony forgery “if the [forged] writing is or purports to be a will, deed, contract, release, commercial instrument, or other document… otherwise affecting legal relations.”
It becomes second degree felony forgery when “the writing is or purports to be part of an issue of money, securities, postage or revenue stamps, or other instruments issued by the government… or other instruments representing interests in or claims against any property or enterprise.” Therefore, this is the relevant charge. A conviction can result in a fine of up to $25,000, as well as a hefty prison sentence of up to 10 years.
If you or someone you love has been charged with theft or a white collar crime, it is extremely important that you contact an experienced criminal defense attorney right away. To set up your free and confidential legal consultation with a Bucks County criminal defense attorney, call the law offices of Young, Marr, Mallis & Associates at (609) 755-3115 in New Jersey or (215) 701-6519 in Pennsylvania, or contact us online today.