[nfbmi-talk] glad assoc for blind got money back in 2010
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Sun Jan 2 08:17:26 CST 2011
How police say three people defrauded Meijer, Walmart, charities out of millions, $50 at a time | MLive.com
GRAND RAPIDS -- What may have seemed like easy money is ending with decades of jail time for a group of people who police say created bogus accounts and
bounced checks around the Midwest over the past several years.
Wyoming Police and the multijurisdictional Metropolitan Fraud and Identity Theft Team broke the case where investigators say the Grand Rapids-based group
would use compromised donor and client information from charities and other businesses and create fake checks with computers.
One of the charities hit last year was the Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired. The criminals obtained account information from donors and clients
to run the scam without their knowledge, authorities said.
Laquinn Johnson.jpgLaquinn Johnson
Terry Kirkwood.jpgTerry Kirkwood
Robsheta Hollinquist.jpgRobsheta Hollinquist
The suspects then used paid underlings to take the checks to businesses -- most notably Meijer and Walmart -- where the checks were cashed mostly for amounts
less than $100, many for as little as $50.
Federal marshals on Monday arrested 46-year-old Laquinn Johnson, whom they tracked down over the course of a couple weeks to a house near Boston Street
SE and Kalamazoo Avenue. He is in the Kent County Jail on a charge of conducting criminal enterprises as a repeat offender.
He was arraigned in Wyoming District Court and is held on a $200,000 bond.
Also Monday, Kent County Circuit Judge James Robert Redford sentenced 38-year-old Terry Kirkwood to 10 to 20 years in prison and 21-year-old Robsheta Hollinquist
to 3 1/2 to 20 years -- both for criminal enterprises, but with varying levels of involvement.
According to Wyoming Detective Lt. Scott Beckman, who led the investigation, the alleged crime spawned 54 individual victims and is estimated to have involved
perhaps millions of dollars.
"I don't know if we'll ever be able to prove the entire amount," Beckman said.
Monday, Kirkwood and Hollinquist were ordered to provide restitution of nearly $140,000 to Meijer and other business and another $72,665 for the thefts
related to the Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired. The amount still is being tallied, according to Redford, who left the issue of restitution
The restitution is the responsibility of all those convicted in the scheme.
"We're grateful (police) were able to solve this," said Richard Stevens, executive director of the association. "It's very disappointing that some would
target the blind or visually impaired or other potentially vulnerable groups and those who try to help them."
Beckman said the people sent to stores to cash the checks often were in need of money for various reasons, or just wanted to make an easy $50 or $100.
"They were preying on need and greed," Beckman said. "They would just blanket an area like Detroit or out of state with these checks."
He said the stolen information and highly skillful forgeries would allow the checks to pass by the usual detection methods. When a victim would discover
the checks were bogus, the suspects then would disappear and resurface with newly stolen information to repeat the cycle.
Beckman said it appears the scheme operated with high overhead, and even those at the top were hardly profiting. Most lived on the Southeast Side.
"It's not like we were pulling people out of mansions," Beckman said.
Meanwhile, June 10 saw 28-year-old David Kevin Franklin sentenced by Judge Mark Trusock to 10 to 20 years in prison for the criminal enterprise and using
a computer to commit a crime, and 28-year-old Anthony Tyrill Tims sentenced to five to 20 years on a criminal enterprise charge.
Trusock will sentence 42-year-old Richard Junior Douglas on July 1 after he pleaded guilty to criminal enterprises.
On Aug. 2, Redford is to sentence 39-year-old Adina Martin and 25-year-old Katie Ann Martin on charges of criminal enterprises and using a computer to commit
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