Office of Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr.

May 18, 2001 Media Inquiries: Sean Caine 410-576-6357


Baltimore - Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr. announced today the sentencing of Leroy E. Brown, 27, of Fort Washington, for his role in a million dollar counterfeit check ring that operated out of Prince Georgeís County and accounted for the passing of thousands of bogus checks in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia. The Honorable Philip Nichols of the Prince Georgeís County Circuit Court sentenced Brown to five years in prison, five years probation and restitution of over $177,000 to five banks.

Brown had pleaded guilty in July 1999 to conspiracy and felony theft, pursuant to a cooperation agreement that required him to provide information against his coconspirators and to testify against them at trial. However, rather than cooperate as planned, he fled town, forfeiting his bail and relieving the State from its original sentencing recommendation of three years in prison. After a hearing before Judge Nichols, the court determined that Brown had in fact breached his cooperation agreement and sentenced him to the longer sentence requested by the Attorney Generalís Office.

The Attorney General has convicted a total of 12 individuals for their role in this illegal ring, which was described in court of consisting of several layers and which operated between 1996 and 1999. The leaders of the ring were husband and wife, Yahya and Elvia Abdussamadi, of District Heights. They were responsible for manufacturing over a million dollars worth of counterfeit government benefit and private company payroll checks, using commercially available computer equipment and software. They would pay someone to make a copy of their paycheck or benefit check, which they would in turn reproduce and scan into their computer. Using the real check as a template, Pops and his wife would then manufacture a bogus check that looked identical to the real check, but which now had a different payee (a trusted co-conspirator) and a different amount. None of the people whose names were inserted actually worked for the companies in question or were eligible to receive the benefits comprising the original check. The quality of these counterfeits was so good that they often fooled bank tellers to whom they were presented for payment.

The middle management level of the conspiracy was comprised of the "brokers" or "lieutenants", who recruited the "passers" to provide a copy of their real paycheck and then be sent out to cash the resulting counterfeits. These "brokers" or "lieutenants" would drive the passers around to area banks to cash the counterfeit checks, collect the proceeds and relay the money back to Pops and his wife. Some days an individual passer might cash a particular check 13 times, at 13 different branches of the same bank, generating over $10,000 in ill-gotten gains. Since the checks in question were counterfeits, the ultimate loss is borne by the banks that cashed them, not the companies and local governments whose checks were compromised. Some of the victim banks include NationsBank, Crestar Bank, Signet Bank, First Union Bank and Allfirst Bank.

The investigation was conducted jointly with the Maryland State Police, the U. S. Secret Service Metro Area Fraud Task Force and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.