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Press Release

Ringleader Of $2 Million Fraudulent Check Scheme Targeting Home Improvement Stores Sentenced To 37 Months In Prison

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of New Jersey

NEWARK, N.J. – An Irvington, New Jersey, man has been sentenced to 37 months in prison for his role 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.

Reginald Phillips, 56, of Irvington, New Jersey, previously pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Katharine S. Hayden to an information charging him with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Judge Hayden imposed Phillips’s sentence Oct. 9, 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, Phillips spearheaded a conspiracy of several individuals – four of whom have also pleaded guilty in the case – who worked together to obtain merchandise or store credit from home improvement stores along the eastern United States, including New Jersey, by purchasing items with fraudulent checks.

Phillips and his conspirators entered home improvement and other retail stores and gathered high-value items like air conditioners, hardwood flooring, and expensive home wiring. They then “purchased” the items 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 many of the transactions, Phillips 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 and his conspirators stole over $2.4 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 to three years of supervised release.

U.S. Attorney Carpenito credited postal inspectors of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, under the direction of Inspector in Charge James V. Buthorn in Newark, 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: Lisa Mack Esq., Assistant Federal Public Defender, Newark

Updated October 10, 2019

Press Release Number: 19-309