Ringleader Pleads Guilty to Using Forged Checks to Defraud Merchants and Bank of over $250,000

November 2, 2010

Baltimore, Maryland - Charlie Lee Hamlette, age 32, of Baltimore, pleaded guilty today to conspiring to commit bank and mail fraud in connection with a scheme to use forged checks to unlawfully obtain merchandise and cash.

The guilty plea was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Special Agent in Charge Barbara Golden of the United States Secret Service – Baltimore Field Office; Baltimore Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III; Colonel Terrence Sheridan, Superintendent of the Maryland State Police; the District Attorney’s Office for Delaware County, Pennsylvania and the Upper Darby Police Department in Pennsylvania.

According to Hamlette’s plea agreement, from 2007 to 2008, Hamlette recruited and paid others to help him cash forged checks drawn on the names of fictitious companies. The forged checks were made to look like company checks that were written to the merchants as payees. The conspirators then signed their own names and used their identifications when presenting the checks at merchant stores. Hamlette and others made over 300 purchases for a total of over $254,458 worth of goods in Maryland, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Hamlette sold the goods that he unlawfully obtained.

Hamlette and others also forged checks of actual companies using the bank routing and account numbers of those companies without their knowledge, to cash checks at a bank for a total of $4,058.71.

As part of the plea agreement, Hamlette and the government have agreed that if the Court accepts the plea agreement Hamlette will be sentenced to 70 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release. Hamlette also agrees to the entry of an order of restitution for the full amount of the victims’ losses. U.S. District Judge William M. Nickerson scheduled sentencing for February 8, 2011 at 2:00 p.m.

Four other defendants have pleaded guilty to their participation in the fraud scheme and are scheduled to be sentenced on the same day as Hamlette, and on February 1, 2011.

This law enforcement action is part of President Barack Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. President Obama established the interagency Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. The task force includes representatives from a broad range of federal agencies, regulatory authorities, inspectors general, and state and local law enforcement who, working together, bring to bear a powerful array of criminal and civil enforcement resources. The task force is working to improve efforts across the federal executive branch, and with state and local partners, to investigate and prosecute significant financial crimes, ensure just and effective punishment for those who perpetrate financial crimes, combat discrimination in the lending and financial markets, and recover proceeds for victims of financial crimes.

United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein praised the U.S. Secret Service, Baltimore Police Department, the Maryland State Police, the Delaware County District Attorney’s Office and the Upper Darby Police Department for their work in the investigation. Mr. Rosenstein thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Judson T. Mihok, who is prosecuting the case.

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