FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
March 21, 2000
Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr., announced today the final step in his crackdown on counterfeit check fraud by a notorious criminal organization operating out of Prince Georgeís County, Md., with the convictions of the husband/wife kingpins on multiple conspiracy, counterfeiting and theft charges.
Pleading guilty today before the Honorable William B. Spellbring, Jr., Prince Georgeís County Circuit Court, were Yahya Abdussamadi, aka "Pops", and his wife, Elvia Abdussamadi. Residents of District Heights, Md., the Abdussamadiís admitted to running a multi-county counterfeit check scheme from 1996 to 1998. Judge Spellbring sentenced "Pops", who is already serving a lengthy federal sentence for armed robbery, to 10 years in prison, and his wife, Elvia to 10 years, three years of which she is to serve in home detention. Each Defendant was also ordered to make restitution of $100,000, for a total of $200,000.
Before todayís convictions, the Attorney Generalís Office had convicted a total of nine other members in this check ring, for their role in counterfeiting and cashing literally hundreds of thousands of dollars in counterfeit government and private company checks in the greater Washington, D.C. metropolitan area.
Attorney General Curran described the Abdussamadiís counterfeit check "ring" as having several layers or rungs. The lowest rung was comprised of the "passers," whose role was to cash the counterfeit checks. The next level up in the organization was comprised of the "brokers," who would recruit people to "loan" them their paycheck or their government benefit check, which they would give to the Abdussamadis to reproduce and counterfeit. Using commercially available technology, the Abdussamadis would alter a legitimate check to make it payable to one of their co-conspirators. The resulting check was of such good quality that it often fooled the bank teller. The "brokers" then recruited "passers" to negotiate the counterfeited checks at area banks, paying them a fraction of the proceeds.
Typically, a "passer" might negotiate 10 checks in a single day, all purportedly issued by the same company or government agency. However, none of the checks were legitimate and none of the passers had ever worked for the companies whose checks were compromised or were otherwise entitled to any payments. The passers were paid $100 to $500 a day for their participation, depending on how many checks they were able to successfully negotiate.
"As weíve already seen, this organization did a great deal of damage to Marylandís banking industry," said Attorney General Curran, who estimates the ring has been in operation since late 1996. "The potential threat posed by creating and passing these seemingly perfect check "copies" is serious, so we need to make sure we prosecute all the participants, from the bottom up."
Since the checks were not legitimate but counterfeit, the banks must absorb the losses. Some of the harder hit banks are NationsBank, Crestar Bank, Signet, First Union Bank and First National Bank of Maryland. The Attorney General wishes to thank these and other banks for their cooperation in the investigation, which was run jointly with the U. S. Secret Service Metro Area Fraud Task Force, the Maryland State Police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.