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Woman convicted of forging service member's checks

By Joe Beck

A Front Royal woman was sentenced to three months of home electronic monitoring Monday after pleading guilty to 10 charges linking her to a scheme to steal thousands of dollars from her brother-in-law while he was serving in the military in Afghanistan.

Jessica Allyn Benson was convicted in Warren County Circuit Court of five counts of forgery and five counts of passing forged checks while drawing funds from the bank account of brother-in-law Christopher Harbaugh.

Benson, 28, whose address was listed as 6278 Howellsville Road in court records, committed the offenses during the first two weeks of November 2011.

Commonwealth's Attorney Brian Madden said the checks were drawn on Harbaugh's account at BB&T bank after his deployment. She was originally charged with 20 check-related offenses, but she pleaded guilty to a reduced number after reaching an agreement with the prosecution.

Madden told Hupp that Benson gained access to the account after her sister married Harbaugh in "a quickie romance" prior to his overseas deployment.

In an interview Tuesday, Madden said she obtained the checkbook while the two women were living together.

The sentencing contained no order for Benson to return any money, but Madden said he has received a restitution check of $6,459 payable to BB&T "provided to me from her lawyer."

"There was a discussion with the defense attorney to pay restitution," he said, referring to plea agreement negotiations.

Madden said he had been informed that BB&T reimbursed Harbaugh for the money he lost. A BB&T corporate spokesman at its North Carolina headquarters refused to comment on the case.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com


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