Two New Jersey men and a Florida woman stand accused of stealing $700,000 from various banks in several states through a counterfeit check scheme.
New Jersey authorities say the seven-count indictment was handed up Wednesday by a state grand jury.
The alleged ringleader, Harold Stephens of Elizabeth, and co-defendants Michael Caldwell, of Irvington and Janilyn Roman, of Orlando, Florida, each face single counts of theft by deception, conspiracy and forgery and two counts of money laundering.
Stephens also faces additional single counts of money laundering and forgery. All three defendants could face lengthy prison terms if convicted on all counts.
Authorities say that between January 2012 and September 2014, the three defendants and other scheme participants deposited roughly 300 counterfeit checks in amounts totaling over $1.6 million into numerous third-party bank accounts. The checks were deposited at branch offices of five major banks in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Florida.
Stephens, Caldwell and Roman then allegedly stole more than $700,000 by withdrawing funds from the deposit of the counterfeit checks before the banks discovered the fraud.
Acting New Jersey Attorney General John Hoffman says the three defendants used a computer graphics program to create the counterfeit checks, which they quickly converted to cash by taking advantage of banks with "customer-friendly policies" on fund availability.
Breaking news and the stories that matter to your neighborhood.
"They were essentially printing money," Hoffman said.
Telephone numbers for the three defendants could not be located Wednesday.