Jury finds Georgia men guilty in local bank fraud scheme

(Source: MGN Online)
(Source: MGN Online)

A federal grand jury on Friday found three Georgia men guilty in a counterfeit check scheme that targeted banks in Lake Charles, Sulphur, Crowley, Lafayette and Broussard.

Defendants in the case were Anthown Latarius Swan, 28; Orlando Brian Washington, 29; and Lavar Elliot Kittelberger, 33, all of Atlanta.

A fourth co-defendant, 22-year-old Kwame Raphael Cunningham, of Atlanta, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud and identity theft charges on Aug. 22. Sentencing for Cunningham has been set for Dec. 5.

The trial for the remaining co-defendants began Monday.

"According to evidence and testimony presented at the trial, the defendants stayed at Lafayette, La., hotels and would steal 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 out counterfeit checks and recruited individuals off the street and from homeless shelters who had valid identification to cash the fake checks," said U.S. Attorney Stephanie A. Finley.

According to authorities, a search of the defendants' hotel room led to the discovery of 43 stolen checks as well as a computer, a printer and blank check paper. The stolen checks were worth an estimated $155,223.

All of the defendants were convicted on conspiracy to defraud a financial institution and stolen mail counts. Swan and Washington were also convicted of eight counts of fictitious obligations, and Kittleberger was convicted of five counts of fictitious obligations.

"The defendants face up to 30 years in prison, a $1 million fine, and five years of supervised release. A sentencing date of Feb. 13, 2014 was set," Finley said.

U.S. District Judge Patricia Minaldi presided over the trial.

Investigating this case were the U.S. Secret Service, the Lafayette Police Department, the Sulphur Police Department, the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff's Office and the Louisiana State Police.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Brett L. Grayson and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert C. Abendroth prosecuted the case.

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