by: Mark Becker Updated:
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Police and Secret Service agents began picking up suspects around 6 a.m. Friday and bringing them to the federal courthouse where a judge unsealed a 27-page indictment that spells out an alleged check fraud scheme.
The indictment said the 17 suspects would either buy worthless checks or break into cars and steal checks, then sign and forge them. The suspects would pretend to deposit hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars into what agents call straw accounts, then turn around and withdraw hundreds of dollars from ATMs before the banks knew the checks were bogus.
Prosecutors said that was going on for six years and it began to unravel in July when Channel 9 first reported that police were making some arrests in the case.
But now the federal indictment casts a much wider net with potentially far more serious consequences.
All the defendants are looking at possible maximum sentences of 30 years or more and one of them told Channel 9 he never saw it coming.
“Anybody who knows me knows that’s not my forte. That’s not what I do,” said defendant Ranardo Perry.
Perry was released on bond after his court appearance, and told Channel 9 he is a musician and was never involved in the fraud scheme.
“Everybody has a past, but I’m past those stages, but whatever they say I’m just glad to be free,” Perry said.