On February 22, 2012 a Georgia man pled guilty to charges stemming from his involvement in a scheme to pass fraudulent checks involving homeless people. Authorities arrested three others in Georgia in connection with the plan, but prosecutors allege that the four were part of a nationwide check fraud scheme.
Details of the Fraud
Authorities accused the man of being part of a national ruse that used homeless people to cash fraudulent checks. Prosecutors claim the people involved in the operation stole business checks from industrial park mailboxes, and then approached homeless people for help in cashing checks.
Those involved in the scheme bought the homeless people new clothes and sometimes put them in a hotel room for a night. The following day, they would drive the homeless people to area banks, tell the homeless people to claim to be employees of the companies whose names were written on the checks and cash them. The homeless people would receive a portion of the funds they collected from the banks.
Authorities state that the four people in Georgia involved in the plan cashed 61 checks using this method, for a total of $130,618.
Penalties for Check Fraud
The penalties for passing fraudulent checks can be severe. Both federal and state laws make such actions a crime. The maximum penalty for making, uttering, or possessing counterfeit securities with the intent to deceive in violation of federal law is ten years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine. Federal sentencing guidelines provide enhanced punishments for defendants who recruit other participants or who prey on vulnerable victims.
Forging checks is a felony in Georgia. Merely making or possessing such items is forgery in the second degree. Forgery in the second degree is punishable by one to five years in prison along with a fine. If a person tries to pass those forged checks off as legitimate, the offense rises to forgery in the first degree, a conviction for which could result in one to 10 years in prison and a fine.
Consult an Attorney
People may think that writing bad checks is not a big deal, but both state and federal authorities take check fraud charges very seriously. They will not hesitate to prosecute such cases to the fullest extent possible. If you are facing check fraud charges, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately to ensure that your rights are protected.