Sixteen individuals have been arrested and charged with taking part in a scheme to pass bad checks in four counties and collect more than $100,000 from local banks and check-cashing businesses, according to a Nov. 16 announcement from Middlesex County Prosecutor Andrew C. Carey and Chief Stephen J. Rizco of the Highland Park Police Department.
The investigation into the scheme began on August 11, 2015, when authorities at a bank in Highland Park said five individuals had arrived and were attempting to cash bogus payroll checks. The arrest of the five initiated a wider investigation that led to the apprehension of eleven other individuals on charges of passing bad checks at banks and check cashing businesses in Middlesex, Somerset, Union and Monmouth counties.
Bail ranged from $200,000 to $10,000 for the defendants, who were charged with various roles in the scheme between June 30, 2015 to September 29, 2015.
Prosecutor Carey said a number of police agencies participated in the investigation and arrests. He thanked the police departments of Highland Park, Linden, Metuchen, Rahway, and Roselle, as well as the Middlesex County Sheriff’s Office and the Union County Prosecutor’s Office.
The investigation by Detective Ted Pardo of the Highland Park Police Department and Detective Ryan Tighe of the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office determined that three individuals obtained and prepared bogus pay checks, which were distributed to other individuals who cashed them at the banks and check-cashing businesses.
The three were identified as Ralph Jean-Gilles, 33, and Marcanthony Dorcent, 21, both of Roselle, and Machanley Jules, 28, of Rahway. They each were charged with promoting organized street crime, a first-degree offense, and second-degree counts of conspiracy to write and distribute bad checks. Bail was set at $200,000 for Mr. Jean-Gilles and $100,000 each for Mr. Dorcent and Mr. Jules.
In addition, bail was set at $60,000 for Shiraan Singleton, 33, of Roselle, who was charged with a second-degree count of conspiracy to write and pass bad checks and a third-degree count of promoting prostitution in an incident unrelated to the check scheme.
Individuals charged with third-degree counts of passing bad checks and theft by deception were identified as: James Wellington Jr., 48, of Mahwah; Marcel Rose Jr., 41, of Linden; Cheyenne Little, 23, of Elizabeth; Natasha Colon, 25, of Roselle; and Sonnel Santiago, 38, Maria Cancel-Martinez, 27, and Indiana Martinez, 30, all of New Brunswick; and Kamila Price, 21, of Belleville, Michigan.
Diana Rodriguez, 25, of New Brunswick was charged with third-degree counts of attempting to pass a bad check, and theft by deception. Derell Roberts, 31, of Elizabeth, Jahtiah Nix, 24, of Ewing, and Tristin Keck, 25, of Roselle each were charged with a fourth-degree count of passing bad checks and a third-degree count of theft by deception.
Under state law, the defendants charged with the most serious first-degree crimes could serve between 10 years and 20 years in state prison, if convicted. The investigation is continuing. Anyone with information is asked to call Detective Tighe of the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office at (732) 745-3300, or Detective Pardo of the Highland Park Police Department at (732) 572-3800.
The statement from the Prosecutor’s Office and the Highland Park Police reminded the public that the charges against these individuals are accusations, and the accused are presumed innocent until proven guilty.