Judge Sentences Fraudster to 121 Months in Prison for Running Check Scheme
|U.S. Attorney’s Office February 10, 2014|
Phillip Eric Weems, 36, of Philadelphia, was sentenced today to 121 months in prison for running an elaborate check-cashing scheme in which he created more than $1.2 million worth of forged and counterfeit securities. Weems recruited more than 70 co-conspirators who presented forged and counterfeit checks to check cashing businesses, financial institutions, and dog breeders. In addition to the fraud conspiracy, Weems was charged with straw purchasing three firearms. He pleaded guilty on January 30, 2013, to conspiracy to utter counterfeit and forged securities, uttering a forged security and aiding and abetting, uttering a counterfeit security and aiding and abetting, and three counts of aiding and abetting the making of false statements to federal firearms licensees.
Weems’ organization made and uttered dozens of forged checks of the County of Montgomery (Pennsylvania) District Justice Courts, Avis Budget Group, A-Worx Staffing Inc., Royal Car Center Inc., Staples Inc., The Wedge Medical Center P.C., Gentile Realty Co., and a local general contractor. Weems also registered fake corporations with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, often using names of real franchise corporations to make an additional 488 checks appear legitimate. He opened 15 business checking accounts in the names of the fake corporations with financial institutions, including Bank of America, Wachovia, Sovereign, and TD Bank and deposited enough money in each to make the accounts appear to have adequate funds. He cashed 294 checks at multiple check cashing companies, often on the same day, and then would often withdraw the balance of funds from the accounts before the checks could be processed. He conducted this scheme from January 2009 through November 2009.
In addition to the prison term, U.S. District Court Judge Juan R. Sanchez ordered Weems to pay restitution in the amount of $182,956.36 and a $600 special assessment and ordered three years of supervised release.
The case was investigated by the FBI and was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Ashley Lunkenheimer.