MEDIA COURTHOUSE — Twelve people have been charged in a complex phony check scheme that netted approximately $25,000 from victim check cashing businesses, according to a release from Delaware County District Attorney Katayoun Copeland and Lansdowne Police Chief Daniel Donegan, Jr.
The release indicates three defendants – Catherine Deorio, David Zicardi, and Michael Lafferty – masterminded the scheme of printing off fake business checks and then recruited nine others to cash the checks at businesses throughout southeastern Pennsylvania, including those in Montgomery, Philadelphia and Delaware counties.
Darby Borough police officers conducted a vehicle stop of a U-Haul van August 2, according to the release. The occupants were identified as Zacardi, James Alleva and Madeline Halloran.
Inside the van were counterfeit checks in the name of Zacardi, Alleva and Halloran, according to the release. Investigators discovered the checks were allegedly being produced and issued out of an apartment on the 100 block of Lansdowne Avenue in Lansdowne, which Deorio previously shared with Lafferty and Zicardi, according to the release.
Beginning sometime in December 2018, Deorio allegedly began creating fake checks in the names of various fake businesses using an application on her computer. The fraudulent checks were printed on check stock and contained the name of the business, a business phone number, address and a proper routing number but an incorrect account number, according to the release. The fake business names included MAID 2 CLEAN, EMG Acquisition Company, Philly Clean, ADR Contracting, A Kutting Edge, CDR Contracting, and A 1 Roofing, the release says.
Deorio, 38, of the 2500 block of South 64th Street in Philadelphia, would then create fake websites and fake reviews for these fraudulent businesses on Yelp, according to the release. The websites and phone numbers associated with the checks were for a phone she had in her possession, the release says, so that she would be able to “verify” the check with the victim check cashing businesses.
After creating the checks, Deorio, Lafferty and Zicardi, 27, of the 2500 block of South 64th Street in Philadelphia, would allegedly recruit others to cash them at various local businesses. The recruited co-conspirators would give their contact information to Lafferty or Deorio, who would get in touch several days later and pick them up in a car, the release says.
Lafferty, 26, of the 100 block of N. Lansdowne Avenue in Lansdowne, would drive while Deorio sat in the front passenger seat and Zicardi sat in the backseat, according to investigators. While en route to cash a check, the trio allegedly instructed the recruit on the procedure once inside the store.
Deorio would tell the recruit that the machine the cashier used to check the validity would not detect that the check was counterfeit, according to the release, and that the phone number associated with the check and business would come back to her cellphone.
The release indicates the check cashing businesses would attempt to verify the presented checks by looking up websites, checking Yelp for reviews and calling the phone numbers provided.
After the recruit exited the check cashing business, all money would be given to Deorio and she would pay the recruit 25% of the face value of the check, according to police. At least $25,238 was stolen over the course the scheme, according to the release.
A search warrant executed at the Lansdowne apartment uncovered several items related to the alleged scheme, including a silver Acer laptop, HP OfficeJet 3830 printer, a large quantity of blank check stock and numerous counterfeit checks made out to the defendants using the fictitiously created business names, the release says.
Deorio and Lafferty have been arrested and face hundreds of counts each, as does Zicardi, who has a warrant out for his arrest. Co-conspirators Halloran, 37, of the 2500 block of S. 64th Street in Philadelphia; Alleva, 39, of the 2500 block of South 64th Street in Philadelphia; Jakirah Cromwell, 27, of the 2200 block of Bucknell Street in Philadelphia; Vivian Lauber, 41, of the 6900 block of Grosbear Place in Philadelphia; Michael Mitchell, 20, of the 8100 block of Pontiac Avenue in Philadelphia; Devin Collins, 27, of the 100 block of N. 5th Street in Darby; and Shyanne Coombs, 23, of the 4000 block of W. 7th Street in Trainer have also been arrested.
Warrants have been issued for alleged co-conspirators Tyrell Calwise, 22, of the 200 block of Lincoln Avenue in Collingdale and Andre Johnson, 26, of the 2000 block of E. Somerset Street in Philadelphia, according to the release.
The defendants face a variety of felony and misdemeanor theft and conspiracy charges, as well as related offenses. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney William Judge Jr.
“These 12 individuals will be held accountable for their greed,” said Copeland in the release. “It is through the hard work of our law enforcement partners that this operation was dismantled. I commend Lansdowne Police Officer (Michael) Miller, CID Detective (Steven J.) Cortese, and the Darby Borough Police Department for their diligent work on this case.”
Anyone who believes they were a victim of the scheme is urged to contact Cortese at 610-891-4861.