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Four men accused of using homeless people to cash forged checks

Four men face federal charges related to forging checks and recruiting homeless people in Pittsburgh to cash them, according to a recent article in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Charges against the men, all of whom are from Atlanta, included identity theft, possession of counterfeit checks and conspiracy. They were arrested in Monroeville on Oct. 6.

According to investigators from the U.S. Postal Service, the men routinely got into the mailboxes of businesses in office buildings and industrial parks and stole batches of checks belonging to businesses there. They would then write out checks for between $1,500 and $3,000 to cash, according to an affidavit filed with the court.

But instead of trying to cash the checks themselves, authorities say, they recruited homeless people and prostitutes to do it for them at PNC Bank branches in Pittsburgh, figuring that their local Pennsylvania driver's licenses would help convince banks to accept the checks. In exchange, the check cashers were given money and clothing.

The scheme worked until one bank teller in Monroeville rejected one of the checks. One of the suspects, who had alleged driven the person trying to cash the check, drove away and the teller wrote down his Georgia license plate number.

Authorities soon began arresting homeless people who were trying to cash the checks. Under questioning, the arrested men and women led police to a pair of hotels in Monroeville where the suspects were staying. An assistant U.S. attorney involved in the case said that the scheme likely involved more people out of the South.

Source: Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, "Four charged with recruiting homeless people to cash forged checks," Brian Bowling, Oct. 07, 2011

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