Essex County, New Jersey, Man Admits $2 Million Fraudulent Check Scheme Targeting Home-Improvement Stores
NEWARK, N.J. – An Irvington, New Jersey, man today admitted his role in a phony check scheme that stole over $2 million in merchandise from multiple home-improvement stores throughout the country, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced.
Koreen Higgs, 44, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Katharine S. Hayden in Newark federal court to an information charging him with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
Starting in December 2013 and continuing through February 2017, several individuals, including Higgs, conspired to obtain merchandise or store credit from home-improvement stores in locations along the eastern United States, including New Jersey, by purchasing items with fraudulent checks.
Higgs and others entered home-improvement and other retail stores and gathered several high-value items like air conditioners or hardwood flooring. Higgs and others then typically “purchased” the items either by handing a cashier a fraudulent check with a phony name but authentic account and routing numbers, or by pretending to be an authorized signatory on a store credit account that Higgs and others had previously opened with a phony check.
During some of the transactions, Higgs and others displayed fake driver’s licenses that had been created by one of the other conspirators, which either duplicated the phony name imprinted on the fraudulent check they presented for payment or matched the name of an authorized signatory on a store credit account that they had previously opened.
In total, Higgs and others stole over $2 million in merchandise from various retailers in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, North Carolina, Georgia, Virginia, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and South Carolina.
Higgs faces 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for the wire fraud conspiracy charge. Sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 17, 2018.
U.S. Attorney Carpenito credited postal inspectors of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, under the direction of Acting Inspector in Charge Ruth M. Mendonca, and special agents of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of New Jersey, with the investigation. He also thanked the Union Township Police Department, the Holmdel Police Department, the Passaic County Prosecutor's Office, the Totowa Police Department, and the Monroe Township Police Department for their assistance.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason S. Gould of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Criminal Division in Newark.
Defense counsel: Alexander Booth Esq., Jersey City, New Jersey