VALDOSTA — Five Valdosta residents pleaded guilty to Senior United States District Judge Hugh Lawson for conspiring to steal and to posses stolen mail.
Kedrick Antwan Williams, 31; Zerrick Devon Tompkins, 31; Jerry Lewis Rawls; 44, Willie James Smith, 64; and Gregory Willie Harris, 46, all of Valdosta, admitted to the theft of between $40,000 and $95,000 worth of checks written on the accounts of various businesses and individuals, according to plea agreements.
Members of the conspiracy admitted to stealing mail in the Valdosta area between July 24 and Dec. 8, 2016. They removed checks and altered payees and/or amounts on checks that were in the mail, according to a release from the U.S. Department of Justice.
The defendants then presented the checks for cashing or deposit and retained the funds, the release stated.
Members of the conspiracy agreed to payment of restitution of more than $14,000 to five banks and one business, based on checks that were actually negotiated.
Sentencing is scheduled for all defendants Jan. 10, 2018 in Valdosta.
“This case involved a classic organized check-cashing ring, with some members stealing checks, others altering the payees and the amounts, and others negotiating the altered instruments,” United States Attorney G.F. Peterman said. "The many victims in the South Georgia area included numerous businesses and individuals. It is a shame that with all the ingenuity and effort these criminals invested in this illegal scheme, they did not choose to earn an honest dollar instead, which they were clearly smart and resourceful enough to have done."
The case was investigated by the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office, the Valdosta Police Department and the United States Postal Inspection service. Robert D. McCullers, service assistant to the United States attorney, is prosecuting the case on behalf of the government.
Thomas Lynn is a government and education reporter for The Valdosta Daily Times. He can be reached at (229)244-3400 ext. 1256