Thursday, February 20, 2003

Westwood man admits $50K fraud


Busted by billing porn to county

By Sharon Turco
The Cincinnati Enquirer

A Westwood man has admitted his role in a scam that defrauded area banks out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Charles Loper's plea before Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Melba D. Marsh on Wednesday is the final chapter in a check fraud scam that has been described as one the largest frauds in Cincinnati history.

Cincinnati police detectives say Loper, 24, created phony checks on his computer, recruited people to cash them, then kept the money. One part of his scam involved billing visits to pornography Web sites to the county.

A Hamilton County treasurer's office employee caught the expenditures, which led to Loper's capture.

Some of the phony checks tie Loper to Charles Jackson, 27, of College Hill, who ran a scam that lasted more than five years, involved dozens of runners and defrauded more than four banks out of more than $300,000, according to court records.

Loper alone used phony checks to defraud banks out of $50,000, said Cincinnati police Detective Leon Locke.

Jackson was convicted last year and is serving a 10-year prison term.

In a sentencing memorandum, Assistant Prosecutor Andrew A. Berghausen described Jackson and his fraud ring.

To keep his name off checks, Jackson recruited others to cash them. With Jackson driving, he and the recruits would go bank to bank cashing the checks, sometimes up to 10 a day.

Cincinnati police tailed Jackson several times over the past few years, but he eluded capture until August 2001, when a witness told police where to find him.

Fifth Third Bank linked 25 cases to Jackson's ring, estimating losses of more than $100,000.

Provident Bank linked 31 cases, estimating losses of more than $150,000.

Firstar Bank linked 19 cases, estimating losses of more than $78,000.

Many smaller banks and credit unions were targeted by the operation and "suffered tremendous losses," according to the memorandum.

Loper pleaded guilty to two counts of telecommunications fraud, two counts of forgery and engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity. He will be sentenced April 4; he faces up to 12 years in prison.

E-mail sturco@enquirer.com




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