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Fraud defense in check cashing arrest nixed by federal judge

| Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2013, 8:00 p.m.

A New Castle police officer had probable cause to arrest a man who converted one forged check into cash and tried to convert a second, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.

Scott Tomasello, 35, of New Castle claimed in his lawsuit that he was the victim of an Internet fraud perpetrated by someone named “Jessica,” who asked him to use the forged checks to open bank accounts for her and then withdraw nearly all of the money.

He claimed that police Sgt. Kevin Seelbaugh lacked probable cause to arrest him in March 2012 on forgery and other charges after First National Bank reported the forged checks.

Lawrence County prosecutors dropped the charges after he paid restitution.

U.S. District Judge Terrence McVerry said Seelbaugh had reasonable grounds for making the arrest.

“In light of his attempts to quickly convert the fraudulent checks into cash, and his use of different locations, a reasonable person could conclude that Tomasello had the intent to defraud the bank,” the judge ruled.

Brian Bowling is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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