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SHENANGO VALLEY 7 indicted, 5 from area, in check scam



Published: Wed, April 24, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



More than $150,000 was taken from at least 13 financial institutions, authorities said.

By HAROLD GWIN

VINDICATOR SHARON BUREAU

SHARON, Pa. -- A bogus check scheme uncovered by local police in early 1999 has led to the federal court indictments of seven people, five from the Shenango Valley.

The indictments for bank fraud and conspiracy to commit bank fraud were handed down in federal court in Cleveland earlier this month.

They charge that the seven passed more than $150,000 in counterfeit checks in western Pennsylvania and the Youngstown area, victimizing at least 13 financial institutions. Authorities had reported that at least one of those checks was a fake payroll check from Youngstown State University.

Who was indicted

Named in the indictment are Charles R. Harris, 31, and Lynette Frieson, 34, both of French Street, Farrell; Lori M. Bryant, 31, of Market Street, Farrell; Philip Wells, 30, of Emerson Avenue, Farrell; Craig S. Ison, 39, of Baldwin Avenue, Sharon; and Joyce E. Green, 32, and Barbara J. McGhee, 61, both of Hunters Ridge, Brownsville, Pa.

The indictment said the scheme operated between April 8, 1998, and late January 1999 and that Harris and Frieson obtained sample checks from various businesses and organizations and used them to produce counterfeit checks on a computer.

Harris and Frieson also assisted the alleged co-conspirators in securing false identification documents to use in passing the bad checks, the indictment said.

The case was broken when local police called the FBI after learning that the crime crossed the state border.

Business raided

FBI agents raided Harris' business in Sharon, a clothing store called Chuck and the Whole 9 Yards, and three residences on Jan. 19, 1999, seizing computer records and other material, including some bogus checks related to the case.

Harris was in Mercer County Jail at the time, serving a short sentence after pleading guilty to two counts of conspiracy to commit theft unrelated to this case, and was paroled a week after the raid.

He is a fugitive at this time, said a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's office in Cleveland.

Frieson, who now gives an Orchard Street, Sharon, address, was arrested on a federal court warrant Monday in the 1500 block of Roemer Boulevard in Farrell and was freed on bond. Green and Wells are believed to be in the Pennsylvania state prison system on other charges, and Bryant, McGhee and Ison will be sent summonses to appear for arraignment, the spokesman said.




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