three georgia men charged in scheme to hire homeless
to pass counterfeit checks
KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Beth Phillips, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that three Georgia men were charged in federal court today for their roles in a nationwide conspiracy to recruit homeless people to pass millions of dollars worth of counterfeit checks.
This scheme is believed to be part of a nationwide counterfeit check ring based in Atlanta, Ga., that has been under investigation by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service since 2010. The investigation is known as Operation Homeless because the passers of the counterfeit checks are homeless people who are recruited to the conspiracy without knowing the names of the other conspirators. Approximately $200,000 in counterfeit checks have been identified locally in the past month, according to court documents, and investigators have documented over $7 million in passed counterfeit checks in several other states in recent months.
Exavius Tatum, 28, of Atlanta, Ga., Joel Javonta Brown, 36, of Austell, Ga., and Patrick Julius Giles, Jr., 24, of Ellenwood, Ga., were charged with conspiracy to possess and pass counterfeit checks in a federal criminal complaint filed in the U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Mo. All three men remain in federal custody pending a detention hearing.
According to an affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint, conspirators stole mail from businesses in the Kansas City metropolitan area. Conspirators allegedly obtained bank routing information of the business bank accounts from the stolen mail, which they used to create computer-generated counterfeit checks.
Today’s criminal complaint alleges that Tatum, Brown and Giles participated in the conspiracy by recruiting area homeless people to pass the counterfeit checks at local banks. According to the affidavit, these homeless people used their own identification to pass the counterfeit checks in exchange for a share of the proceeds, usually $400.
Approximately 20 businesses in two business parks in Olathe, Kan., reported that their incoming mail had been stolen on Oct. 22 and Nov. 5, 2011. Some of the stolen mail was later found discarded in a trash bin at a local Quik Trip store. Shortly after the theft of the business mail, area banks reported several instances in which unknown suspects were passing computer-generated counterfeit checks drawn on those business accounts.
On Nov. 15, 2011, Leawood, Kan., police officers arrested three individuals who had attempted to pass counterfeit checks drawn on the business account of one of the mail theft victims. All three check passers gave similar accounts of being recruited by two men driving a vehicle with Georgia license plates. Two of the arrestees had been staying at a halfway house in Kansas City, Mo.
On Nov. 19, 2011, Olathe, Kan., police officers arrested two homeless men who were attempting to pass counterfeit checks drawn on the business account of another mail theft victim. According to the affidavit, they gave a similar account of being recruited, and told investigators that the men who recruited them bought them meals and paid for a hotel room.
Leawood police officers were conducting surveillance at City Union Mission in Kansas City, Mo., which is where some of the homeless check passers had been recruited. On Dec. 7, 2011, they saw a Kia with Georgia license plates and followed it to a 7-Eleven parking lot on Independence Avenue. Giles got out of the Kia, the affidavit says, and got into the front passenger seat of a Ford Fusion bearing Rhode Island plates, which was driven by another person who has not been charged. Law enforcement officers stopped both vehicles for traffic infractions. Tatum and Brown, who were in the Kia, and Giles were arrested. Passengers in the rear seats of the two vehicles were identified as homeless men from the area.
Phillips cautioned that the charges contained in this complaint are simply accusations, and not evidence of guilt. Evidence supporting the charges must be presented to a federal trial jury, whose duty is to determine guilt or innocence.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney John E. Cowles. It was investigated by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Kansas City, Mo., Police Department, and the police departments of Leawood, Kan., Overland Park, Kan., Lenexa, Kan., Fairway, Kan., Shawnee, Kan., and Olathe, Kan.
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