PITTSFIELD -- Pittsfield police believe they have cracked a check forgery ring involving about a dozen people mostly from Pittsfield, who they say stole more than $18,000 from a local woman and her son last year.
Jarvis Chadwell, 30, currently serving time in jail on a gun charge, was the latest to be arraigned on charges related to the check forgery scheme on Thursday, Chadwell allegedly asked a person to cash a check that was stolen from the victim in September. The check, allegedly cashed by Alan Griffin, 29, of Division Street, was one of 31 checks totaling $18,150 which were cashed by a number of individuals between July and September last year.
The checks were allegedly stolen by Jacqueline Orton, 28, of West Street, who is awaiting a pre-trial hearing on the matter. Orton allegedly was in a relationship with the son of the victim when she stole the check from his truck, police said. The man's name was on a joint bank account with his mother, who is suffering from Alzheimer's disease.
After allegedly writing 12 checks in her name totaling $6,450, Orton is believed to have passed the stolen checks on to James Adams, 51, of Pittsfield, who cashed checks he wrote out to himself, police said. Adams, who police believe to be the father of Chadwell, allegedly passed out checks to other people as well to cash. Orton allegedly told police she had a heroin problem.
Pittsfield police received a complaint from the victim's son in December and learned there were 31 fraudulent transactions through fraudulently cashed checks. The victim became aware of the forgery after being contacted by Berkshire Bank to see if he knew who Jihad Muhammad was.
Muhammad, 54, of John Street, who also goes by the name Oliver Womble, is accused of falsely cashing two checks totaling $1,350.
Others alleged to have illegally cashed checks include Kim Gates-Adornetto, 47, of King Street, who police say cashed six checks for $6,000; Heather Bunnell, 32, of Pittsfield, who signed off for $350; Jennifer Harris, 23, of Francis Avenue, for $650; Michael Renzi, 27, of Lenox, for $400; Tricia Reynolds, 28, of Maple Street, for $650. Reynolds told police she was cashing the check for Adams. Robert Davis, 36, of Union Street, cashed a check for $650. Davis told police that Orton owed him money and that the check cashing was a way to pay him back. Lanise Robinson, 20, of Bartlett Avenue, whose name was on four checks totaling $2,300, told police she only cashed two checks given to her and her sister Ieshia, 23, by Adams. All of the individuals are facing charges of larceny and uttering a false check.
Chadwell, who pleaded not guilty in Central Berkshire District Court on Thursday, said he never even heard of the victim, when told of the new charges against him. Chadwell had nominal bail set at $50 by Judge Matthew Shea, while he awaits further proceedings and continues to serve his sentence on the gun charge.
Several of those alleged to have been involved in the scheme have been arraigned, though police are still seeking some of the individuals.
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