Ringleader of $1.6M check counterfeiting scheme gets prison

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TRENTON, N.J. (AP) – The New Jersey leader of a $1.6 million counterfeiting ring that deposited 300 bogus checks across four states is now headed to prison.

On Monday, Harold Stephens received a six-year sentence for theft by deception and a consecutive five-year term for money laundering. The 32-year-old Elizabeth man is also liable with two co-defendants for paying $590,354 in restitution.

Stephens pleaded guilty to the charges in January.

Authorities say the counterfeiting ring used a graphics program to create phony checks. Stephens and others then stole roughly $620,000 by withdrawing funds before the banks discovered the fraud.

The ring targeted banks with customer friendly policies to turn the fake checks into cash. They deposited the fake checks into third-party accounts at five major banks in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Florida.

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