News

Ringleader and 3 Conspirators Sentenced for Using Forged Checks to Defraud Merchants and Bank of over $250,000

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 8, 2011

Baltimore, Maryland - U.S. District Judge William M. Nickerson sentenced Charlie Lee Hamlette, a/k/a “Bobo” and “Bo,” age 32, of Baltimore, today to 70 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, for conspiring to commit bank and mail fraud in connection with a scheme to use forged checks to unlawfully obtain merchandise and cash. Judge Nickerson also ordered Hamlette to pay restitution of $98,714, which the court determined to be the full amount of the loss.

Today, Judge Nickerson also sentenced co-defendants Frederick L. Graham, age 37, of Baltimore, to 18 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release, and sentenced Marcella D. Woods, age 33, and Joanique J. Ragin, age 29, both also of Baltimore, each to three years probation, for their roles in the scheme. Judg Nickerson also ordered the co-defendants to pay restitution, including $39,626 for Marcella Woods.

The sentences were 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 their plea agreements, from 2007 to 2008, Hamlette recruited and paid co-defendants Joanique J. Ragin, Marcella D. Woods, and 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 met Frederick Graham, a/k/a “Country,” when Graham was operating as an unlicensed taxi cab driver, also known as a “hack.” Between March and June 2008, Graham drove Hamlette and other co-conspirators to the stores where they used the forged checks to obtain goods. On several occasions Graham drove Hamlette to locations to sell the property he had unlawfully obtained. For these services, Hamlette paid Graham in cash.

Hamlette, Graham 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.

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 prosecuted the case.

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