Counterfeit checks cost state, banks tens of thousands of dollars, authorities say
Three people surrendered to authorities on Tuesday, accused in an intricate scheme involving counterfeit checks and “ghost” employees to steal tens of thousands of dollars from banks and the Department of Public Welfare.
The Allegheny County District Attorney's Office expects to arraign 11 others by Friday, including two men in the county jail.
Andrew Fisher, 36, of Lower Burrell and Crystal Nelson, 30, and Anthony Howell, 26, both of New Kensington are charged with theft by deception, receiving stolen property, forgery, access device fraud and criminal conspiracy.
They could not be reached, and it was not clear whether they have lawyers.
In one criminal complaint, Rich Vogel, loss prevention manager for Giant Eagle, reported to Penn Hills police that Raybon J. Cogdell, a former customer service employee at the grocer's Rodi Road location, accepted several payroll checks totaling several thousand dollars that came back unpaid because banks were “unable to locate account.”
A month later, Giant Eagle provided investigators with copies of nine counterfeit checks and certificates of deposit and video surveillance images recorded during the transactions. The checks were drawn in April for differing amounts below the $1,000 threshold requiring management approval.
Five of the checks purportedly were issued by Christian Financial Management, a company that contracted with the Welfare Department to pay caregivers in the Office of Long-Term Living. Omega Federal Credit Union purportedly issued three and Advantage Home Health Care one.
The checks were made payable to eight people.
Detective Jackelyn Weibel with the district attorney's office discovered the money went to phony employees of several companies. The companies later said they never had accounts at the banks from which the checks were drawn or addresses on checks were incorrect.
Weibel found 26 checks totaling about $55,190.
Weibel said the 14 people accused negotiated checks “that they knew to be fraudulent” and either received cash immediately or withdrew money before the unpaid checks returned to the bank.
Adam Brandolph is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-391-0927 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- NFL coaches weigh in on Polamalu’s legacy
- Penguins’ Letang leaves hospital, ‘day-to-day’ with concussion
- Shoulder of ramp to Parkway West to close, delays likely
- GOP succeeding at down-ballot level
- Shortfalls sabotage promise of union retirees’ pensions
- Alvarez latest in Pirates’ revolving door at first base
- Starkey: Next frontier for Steelers offense
- Quigley Catholic mock trial team advances to national finals
- Probiotic bacteria help conquer ‘superbugs’
- Mt. Lebanon native, Iraq war hero’s action goes unrewarded
- Pitt’s Amara offers Vision of hope