Schenectady County

Seven more charged in Schenectady payroll check scam

Seven people have been arrested recently and accused of cashing forged payroll checks at area Price
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Seven people have been arrested recently and accused of cashing forged payroll checks at area Price Chopper supermarkets.

The arrests come two months after a man pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Albany, admitting he conspired to make counterfeit securities, an overall scheme that took as much as $120,000 from local businesses.

That man, Rhakim Rashon Atkins, admitted to distributing high-quality forged payroll checks to individuals from December 2010 to about July 2011. Those individuals would then cash them at Price Chopper stores on Altamont Avenue in Rotterdam or Eastern Parkway in Schenectady, according to federal papers. A “local corner store” was also cited.

Each of the new cases couldn’t be confirmed to have come as a result of that investigation, but Price Chopper spokeswoman Mona Golub said Friday she was aware of several recent arrests in the investigation.

Most of the new arrests also fit in time and location with the federal case. Golub also confirmed that Price Chopper’s check fraud investigators have been working closely with the U.S. Secret Service.

Price Chopper’s closed-circuit video system, as well as its banking and store security measures, led to the individuals involved in the scheme being caught, Golub said.

“With each incident of fraud that comes to our attention, we’re able to be a bit more knowledgeable and a bit sharper and use the technology that we have to detect fraud, to detect fraud a bit better,” Golub said.

In the federal scheme, those passing the counterfeit checks would get a portion of the check as their fee, sometimes $200 per check. Atkins and others in the scheme would get the rest, according to the federal paperwork from December.

The runners, though, would also use their own Price Chopper AdvantEdge Card.

By late August, investigators, using the AdvantEdge Card records, identified at least 70 individuals who had cashed at least one counterfeit payroll check, according to federal court papers. Those 70 individuals together helped take an estimated $70,000.

Secret Service investigators had been working with local police and the company to identify all the counterfeit checks and the individuals who helped cash them, a federal prosecutor has said. Several of the runners were arrested on state charges by December, the prosecutor said then.

Atkins could be sentenced later this month.

Charged recently with payroll check-related charges were:

• Megan Lavarnway, 21, of Congress Street, was charged Friday with one count of second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument, a felony. Lavarnway is accused of possessing and cashing a forged payroll check for $248 on July 27, 2011, at the Altamont Avenue Price Chopper in Rotterdam,.

• Jessica Falco, 29, of Ontario Street, was charged March 5 with two counts of second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument. Falco is accused of possessing and cashing forged payroll checks May 10 and May 17, 2011, at the Eastern Avenue and Altamont Avenue Price Choppers, taking more than $1,800 total.

• Brittany McNair, 23, address unavailable, was charged recently with one count of second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument. McNair is accused of possessing and cashing a forged payroll check Dec. 8, 2010 at the Eastern Avenue Price Chopper, taking $462.

• Bonita Garcia, 45, address unavailable, was charged recently with one count of second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument. Garcia is accused of cashing a forged payroll check at the Eastern Avenue store Dec. 10, 2011, taking $928.

• Gerald T. Clark, 46, of Crane Street, was charged Monday with two counts of second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument. Clark is accused of possessing and cashing forged payroll checks April 17, 2011, one each at the Eastern Avenue store and the Balltown Road store in Niskayuna, taking more than $900 total.

• Crystal A. Parsons, 25, of Morton Avenue, was charged Monday with one count of second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument. Parsons is accused of cashing a forged payroll check Dec. 8, 2010, at the Eastern Avenue Price Chopper.

• Ralph E. Fisher, 61, address unavailable, was charged recently with two counts of second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument. Fisher is accused of possessing and cashing forged payroll checks April 17, 2011, at the Eastern Avenue and Altamont Avenue stores.

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