Alleged interstate racketeering crew faces 407 counts

Prosecutors have charged 15 people in a 407-count indictment for an alleged check cashing scheme in Somerset County.

Prosecutors say it may be the largest indictment in state history.

Several banks have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars due to the scheme, according to prosecutors. South Orange resident Eric Criss has been named by authorities as the leader of a band of criminals scamming banks for more than two and a half years.

Criss and his cohorts allegedly created fake payroll checks using real bank account numbers from a legitimate business. They would then cash the checks at a number of unsuspecting banks, netting thousands in profits.

"What made it unusual was the volume of the checks cashed," says Somerset County Prosecutor Wayne Forrest. "It really was a very innovative type of scheme that they created."

The indictment includes a smorgasbord of charges related to interstate racketeering, money laundering, fraud and conspiracy. The ring allegedly used fake checks from 34 businesses and communities including Union County, the city of Hackensack, Linden Municipal Court and St. Peter's High School in New Brunswick.

According to Assistant Prosecutor Matthew Murphy, the ring operated across the state lines and stretched throughout Ohio, Pennyslvania, New Jersey and New York.

Eleven banks are estimated to have lost more than $600,000 due to the scam. Those losses are being absorbed by the banks and their insurance companies.

Investigators are still trying to track down a number of other suspects in the case.

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