Three men have been convicted for their roles in a check-kiting scheme that spanned across Oneida, Onondaga and Schenectady counties, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced today.
According to a news release sent out by Shneiderman, a joint investigation by his office and New York State Police found that ringleaders Kevin Singleton-Lee (AKA Kev Escobar) and Jerome Simpson, with the help of Daniel Green, issued more than $175,000 in fraudulent checks. They also used social media to recruit financially vulnerable people to cash the fake checks using their personal accounts, and the three men then emptied those accounts of all their assets, according to Schneiderman.
Schneiderman says that between December 2015 and August 2017, Singleton-Lee, Simpson and Green targeted more than a dozen branches of small, local or regional credit unions and banks throughout central New York and the Capital Region, and also recruited more than 50 account holders to assist them in their scheme. During that time, the three men presented cash and more than 100 fraudulent checks that totaled more than $175,000.
Schneiderman says Singleton-Lee and Simpson began by creating bank accounts in the name of businesses, oftentimes fake ones, such as “Jones Maintenance” and “Watkins Homecare.” Then the three mean used social media such as Facebook to target college students and other young, single parents and adults to recruit them to cash the forged checks or deposit them in their personal accounts. The people who were targeted were promised a portion of the check as payment.
After the checks were deposited and funds became available, Schneiderman says the men would drain the accounts before the checks were returned and financial institutions discovered they weren’t worth anything. Schneiderman says the men even sometimes assumed the identities of the account holders without their consent and then accessed their accounts and took money out of ATMs.
Singleton-Lee was charged in both Onondaga and Oneida counties. In Onondaga County on Nov. 4 he pleaded guilty to two counts of felony third-degree grand larceny and felony first-degree identity theft. He was sentenced Nov. 17 to serve 4 and 2/3 to 14 years in state prison. He was also ordered to pay $100,000.
Today in Oneida County Court, Singleton-Lee pleaded guilty to felony first-degree scheme to defraud. He’ll be sentenced Fe. 6, 2018 to 1 and 1/3 to 4 years in state prison, which will run consecutive to his prison sentence in Onondaga County. Combined, he’ll serve 6 to 18 years in prison. Singleton-Lee was also ordered today to pay $26,874.27.
Simpson was previously convicted of felony third-degree grand larceny in Schenectady County Court, and on Nov. 20 he was sentenced to 1 and 1/3 to 4 years in state prison. He was also ordered to repay $47,880.64.
Green was previously convicted of felony third-degree grand larceny in Onondaga County Court and on Oct. 3, he was sentenced to time served and four years of probation. He was also ordered to repay $9,900.
"We have zero tolerance for those who exploit financially vulnerable New Yorkers for their personal gain," Shneiderman said in the news release. “We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to bring fraudsters to justice and protect consumers from falling victim to these scams."