A Georgia man was sentenced Monday to over 9 years in federal prison for recruiting people at homeless shelters and making them cash counterfeit checks.
The checks were worth nearly $105,000.
David Mero, 58, traveled to Virginia and other states at least three times between September 2015 and June 2016, recruiting at least six homeless people to cash at least 40 fake business checks, the United States Department of Justice said.
The checks were cashed at various banks, including C&F Bank branches in Williamsburg, according to court documents.
Three other Georgia men, Roderick Saunders, 30, Ka-Aron Powell, 26, and Yumahnn Quashawn Brown, 30, were each sentenced to serve at least 3 1/2 years in prison in connection with the scheme.
Saunders and Powell were sentenced to 42 months and 65 months, respectively, on Jan. 31 in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.
Brown was sentenced to 75 months in prison on May 24
According to court documents, Mero traveled throughout the eastern region of Virginia and other states stealing mail from industrial parks between September 2015 and June 2016.
He was arrested June 30, 2016 in Texas while engaging in the scheme.
Mero and the other men used business checks stolen from the mail to make templates for counterfeit checks, which were cashed in localities including Norfolk, Williamsburg, Poquoson, Hampton and Richmond, according to documents.
During the trips, Powell and Brown went to homeless shelters, asking shelter guests to do construction and other jobs in exchange for clothing, food, cigarettes and alcohol, the release said.
The men made their counterfeit checks payable to the homeless people they recruited, so they could go into financial institutions and receive money.
When the counterfeit checks were made out to the homeless people, the men informed them they would not work the original jobs they were recruited for, but cash the checks instead.
At one point, Mero held one person at gunpoint after he refused to cash checks.
“Faced with threats to both himself and his family, the homeless man attempted to cash four counterfeit check at Mero’s direction,” according to the department of justice.
In Virginia alone, the men orchestrated 30 homeless people to cash 70 counterfeit checks from 30 local businesses.
Mero was also prosecuted in 2009 in South Carolina federal courts for the same scheme.
WYDaily archives were used in this story.