PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Four Georgia men have been sentenced to federal prison for their involvement in a scheme that exploited homeless people from the Providence area, according to U.S. Attorney Zachary Cunha.
Cortavious Benford, Michael Williams, Austin Weaver, all 27, and Jalen Ronald Stanford, 28, admitted they created counterfeit checks worth $2,000 or more for homeless individuals who agreed to be driven to banks in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Maine to try to cash them.
Williams was sentenced to serve 41 months in prison, while Weaver was sentenced to serve 30 months and both Benford and Stanford were sentenced to two years.
According to Cunha’s office, investigators found that between Oct. 2018 and Feb. 2021, more than $677,000 worth of counterfeit checks were brought to banks, which led to them being defrauded out of nearly $481,000.
In Feb. 2021, Williams and Benford drove a homeless person to a Providence bank and threatened to injure him if he failed to cash the check and give them all the money, prosecutors said.
After the man told the bank what was going on, police tracked down their vehicle a short distance away and arrested Williams and Benford, who were in possession of $12,000 in cash, according to prosecutors.
Police then searched a Providence home and found a computer that had a program used to design and print checks, along with a printer, blank check stock, and an envelope containing numerous stolen checks and approximately $5,000 in cash.
Weaver and Stanford were arrested on later dates.
All four men were convicted on a charge of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and ordered to pay $480,943.71 in restitution.