0

Two face charges in alleged check theft

By Linda Looney-Bond

lbond@news-daily.com

A College Park woman and a Jonesboro man face federal charges related to more than 100 allegedly stolen economic stimulus and tax refund checks.

Cynthia Annette Elliott, 44, of College Park, made her first appearance Wednesday before a U.S. magistrate judge in Atlanta on charges of bank fraud, according to Patrick Crosby, public affairs officer for the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Elliott and Shawn M. Jarrett, 36, of Jonesboro, were indicted on July 29 on charges related to Elliott's alleged bribery of Jarrett, a Bank of America employee, Crosby said in a statement. Elliott was arrested earlier this week.

Jarrett made his first appearance in court on July 30, according to Crosby.

"The defendants allegedly acquired stolen economic stimulus checks and income tax refund checks, and deposited them into a business bank account," Acting U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said in a statement.

"Now both of them face the possibility of felony convictions and federal prison, as well as paying back every penny of the stolen funds as restitution," Yates said.

According to Crosby, Elliott was purportedly engaged in the business of preparing income tax returns. Jarrett was employed by Bank of America as an assistant manager at the location where Elliott did her banking. Elliott allegedly told Jarrett that many of her customers did not have a bank account or the necessary identification to cash a check.

Elliott then allegedly offered to give Jarrett some money if he would allow her to deposit various types of third-party checks into her business accounts, without requiring the payees to appear in person at the bank and present identification, according to Crosby. Jarrett allegedly accepted Elliott's offer and, thereafter, made it possible for Elliott to deposit the checks into her accounts.

Authorities said the checks had a total value of more than $350,000.

"This case impacted taxpaying citizens who failed to receive, in a timely fashion, refunds and payments rightfully due them from the federal government," said Jeffery T. Gilbert, special agent in charge of the United States Secret Service's Atlanta Field Office. "Rest assured, whenever anyone in a position of trust, such as tax preparers or bank employees, violates that trust, we will aggressively pursue these perpetrators by all investigative means."

The indictment charges Elliott with five counts of bank fraud and one count of bribing a bank employee, according to Crosby.

The indictment charges Jarrett with receipt of a bribe by a bank employee.

The bank fraud charges each carry a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million. Each of the bribery charges carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison, and a fine of up to $1 million, or three times the value of the bribe, whichever is greater, according to Crosby.