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Three check schemes busted in Delco

March 23, 2009 4:33:20 PM PDT
Authorities have uncovered three separate counterfeit check schemes in Delaware County.They say one was an operation that may have victimized people across the country.

"These are real efforts to reach into the pockets of the men and women in this region and take their money," said Delaware County District Attorney Mike Green.

Investigators say an apartment in Lansdowne was a boiler room churning out hundreds and hundreds of counterfeit checks.

They say they caught two women, Josephine Illisco and Marilyn Pena, red handed.

They found blank checks, shipping mailers, computers and a printer. Police say Illisco and Pena were printing "made-to-order" checks for scam artists around the country, and maybe even off-shore.

"We had stacks of materials and other checks indicating denominations of hundreds of thousands of dollars," Green said.

The checks were allegedly used to buy items online or in what's become know as "the secret shoppers scam."

The two women are also on the radar screen of federal authorities in California.

Police have also rounded up 10 other suspects in two unrelated scams.

Investigators say Karl Smith was the ringleader of a group that attempted to victimize the government of Delaware County.

They allegedly printed and cashed checks from the Delaware County commissioners with the word commissioners spelled wrong.

The third scam involved a group of six people who police say knowingly deposited counterfeit checks in new bank accounts, then withdrew the cash.

Police are still working that case and haven't found out yet who was providing the phony checks.

"We have not yet identified the manufacturer. So, these are six people who were recruited to cash the checks," said Lt. Joe Ryan of the Delaware County Criminal Investigations Division.

The ongoing investigations are the work of a joint local, state and federal task force.

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