Men sentenced for counterfeit check scheme

Trio cashed checks in Crowley

Three Georgia men were sentenced in federal court earlier this week for their involvement in a scheme that bilked thousands of dollars from business bank accounts in south-central and southwest Louisiana, including in the Crowley area.

United States Attorney Stephanie A. Finley announced that Anthown Latarius Swan of Fairburn, Ga., Orlando Brian Washington of Riverdale, Ga., and Lavar Elliot Kittelberger of Marietta, Ga., were sentenced by U.S. District Judge Patricia Minaldi.

Swan, 28, was sentenced to 50 months in prison; Washington, 29, was sentenced to 24 months in prison; and Kittelberger, 33, was sentenced to 30 months in prison.

Kittleberger was also sentenced to an additional 24 months in prison for aggravated identity theft. They were also all sentenced to five years of supervised release. 

The defendants are also responsible for paying $74,026 in restitution, except for Kittleberger, who is responsible for $67,327. 

All of the defendants were convicted on charges of conspiracy to defraud a financial institution and possession of stolen mail. Swan and Washington were also convicted of eight counts of fictitious obligations and Kittelberger was convicted of five counts of fictitious obligations and one count of aggravated identity theft.

According to evidence and testimony presented at the five-day trial in November, the defendants stayed at Lafayette hotels and stole from area businesses’ mailboxes looking for commercial checks sent to those businesses and drawn on local banks.

They used account information on the original checks to print the counterfeit checks and recruited individuals off the street and from homeless shelters who had valid identification to cash the fake checks.

Counterfeit checks were cashed at banks in Lafayette, Broussard, Crowley, Lake Charles and Sulphur.

During a search of the group’s hotel room on Nov. 27, 2012, authorities found the 43 original stolen checks worth $155,223 in addition to a computer, printer and blank check paper.

The fourth co-defendant of the group, Kwame Raphael Cunningham, 22, of Augusta, Ga., pleaded guilty on Aug. 22, 2013, and was sentenced on Dec. 6, 2013, to 15 months in prison for conspiracy to defraud financial institutions and 24 months in prison for aggravated identity theft.

He also received two years of supervised release. Cunningham is responsible, along with the other defendants, for paying $74,026 in restitution.

The U.S. Secret Service, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the Lafayette Police Department, with assistance from the Sulphur Police Department, the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office and the Louisiana State Police conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Brett L. Grayson and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert C. Abendroth prosecuted the case.

Information provided by the Office of U.S. Attorney Stephanie A. Finley.

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