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Posted May 25, 2012 | comments Leave a comment

Feds accuse three in check-cashing scam

Four-count indictment charges defendants with participating in Virginia operation over several months in 2011, 2012

By Joe Beck -- jbeck@nvdaily.com

A four-count indictment unsealed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Harrisonburg charges three people with participating in a fraudulent check-cashing operation in Virginia over several months in 2011 and 2012.

The indictment identifies the defendants as Cassandra Thomas, Felicia George and Kareef Auguste. Court documents in Frederick County list Thomas' age at 18 and George's at 30. Thomas is from Brooklyn, N.Y. and George is from Norfolk.

The indictment states that on or about Feb. 22, Thomas and George "knowingly uttered and possessed a counterfeited security of an organization, namely American Express, with the intent to deceive another person and organization."

Counts two and three make similar accusations. Count four adds Auguste's name and lists him, with Thomas and George, as participants in a conspiracy to "knowingly make, utter and possess counterfeited securities with the intent to deceive another person or organization between May 2011 and Feb. 22, 2012.

A jury trial is set for Aug. 1 at 9:30 a.m. before U.S. District Judge Michael F. Urbanski in Harrisonburg.

The indictment is accompanied by a list of items that the federal government wants the defendants to forfeit if they are convicted. The targeted items include $499, counterfeit American Express Travelers Checks or any other property of equivalent value if the items being sought are lost or otherwise inaccessible.

The indictment comes almost three months after George and Thomas were arrested on similar charges.

George is facing 10 counts of conspiracy to forge bank notes and passing forged checks and Thomas is accused in nine counts of forgery and one count of obtaining money under false pretenses while acting as a principal in the second degree. Both cases are filed in Frederick County General District Court.

A search warrant affidavit filed by Frederick County Sheriff's investigator R.D. Ellinger accuses George of asking Thomas "if she wanted to make some quick cash cashing" checks while driving her from New York on the way to Virginia. The affidavit cites statements made by Thomas as the basis for its accusations.

As they traveled through western Maryland and the Winchester-Frederick County area, George passed many checks made out for $100 cash to Thomas, according to the affidavit. Thomas then cashed the checks at Sheetz stores after buying pre-paid Visa cards and small items with the cashed checks, according to the affidavit. The affidavit states she was paid $20 for each check she cashed.

Ellinger's affidavit states that seven checks totaling $700 were cashed at Sheetz stores along the suspects' route.

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