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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of New Jersey

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Essex County, New Jersey, Men Sentenced To Prison For Roles In $2 Million Fraudulent Check Scheme Targeting Home-Improvement Stores

NEWARK, N.J. – Two Essex County, New Jersey, men have been sentenced to prison for their respective roles in a phony check scheme that stole more than $2 million in merchandise from multiple home-improvement stores throughout the country, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced today.

Shadeed Phillips, 33, of Irvington, New Jersey, was sentenced to 12 months and one day in prison and Koreen Higgs, 45, also of Irvington, was sentenced to 33 months in prison. Both defendants previously pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Katharine S. Hayden to informations charging them each with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Judge Hayden imposed Phillips’ sentence today and Higgs’ sentence on Feb. 25, 2019, in Newark federal court.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

Starting in December 2013 and continuing through February 2017, several individuals, including Phillips and 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.

Phillips, Higgs and others entered home-improvement and other retail stores and gathered several high-value items like air conditioners or hardwood flooring. Phillips, 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 they had previously opened with a phony check.

During some of the transactions, Phillips, 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, Phillips, 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.

In addition to the prison term, Judge Hayden sentenced Phillips and Higgs each to three years of supervised release.

U.S. Attorney Carpenito credited postal inspectors of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, under the direction of Acting Inspector in Charge James Buthorn, 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:
Phillips: Thomas Ambrosio Esq.. Lyndhurst, New Jersey
Higgs: Alexander Booth Esq., Jersey City, New Jersey

Component(s): 
Press Release Number: 
19-046
Updated February 26, 2019