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Judge gives maximum sentence to con artist

Ohio man involved in Nigerian money scam

June 23, 2010 | 08:41 AM
Elkhorn — A prosecutor pushed two carts of evidence into a Walworth County courtroom Thursday afternoon. The carts were filled with fraudulent money orders, cashiers checks and counterfeit checks from different businesses.

The evidence was seized from the apartment of a 64-year-old Dayton, Ohio, man who attempted to scam a local man out of nearly $2,000.

The District Attorney's Office charged Faarih A. Lateef, who appears in court documents as Jerry L. Perkins, with one count of felony identity theft and one count of misdemeanor theft.

In April, Lateef pleaded no contest to the identity theft charge. On June 17, Judge James Carlson gave him the maximum sentence — which is three years in prison and three years of extended supervision.

Assistant District Diane Donohoo said there is no way to tell how many fraudulent checks Lateef has mailed out, but he clearly was involved in a major crime operation.

"This isn't just a petty little crime. This is a sophisticated scheme that crosses international borders," Donohoo said.

Lateef was extradited to Walworth County from Ohio after a town of LaFayette man listed a horn instrument for sale on Craig's List. Lateef responded to the listing and sent the man a check for $1,995.

Lateef e-mailed the man and asked him to take the money out for the horn and an extra $10 for his troubles, but to send the remainder of the money to a different man in Colorado.

The man was suspicious of the check and contacted law enforcement. On the envelope that was sent to the LaFayette man, police discovered a fingerprint, which matched the one Lateef has on file.

Law enforcement in Ohio arrested Lateef and discovered the rest of the evidence in his apartment.

During the sentencing hearing, Walworth County Sheriff's Det. Robert Craig described the information that was removed from Lateef's apartment.

Inside of Lateef's apartment police discovered hundreds of counterfeit checks, money orders and cashiers checks, which ranged in value from $10,000 to $500; at least 200 money orders from the U.S. Post Office in the amount of $890; and a $500 check from Apple, Inc., which was "signed" by Steve Jobs.

Craig said there also was Western Union money transactions, which were being sent back and forth between Lateef and Nigeria.

The check that was sent to the LaFayette man appeared to come from the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association. The check had the company's actual routing and account numbers.

According to the criminal complaint, a spokesperson from the association said the company was having issues with fraud and had to change one of its payroll accounts.

Mary Burns, Lateef's defense attorney, said her client has good character traits.

She said he volunteers at the Salvation Army, donates clothes and food to the poor and drives neighbors to and from doctor's appointment.

Burns said Lateef's only income is Social Security and a disability check. Lateef used a cane to walk into the court room.

She also pointed out that Lateef's attempt to commit a crime in Walworth County failed.

"The amount was so ridiculous it couldn't even trick a high school student," Burns said.

Donohoo said Lateef has a long history of undesirable, criminal behavior.

Lateef has convictions in the 1970s for shooting to wound, passing bad checks and disorderly conduct.

In 1982, he was convicted of kidnapping and spent a total of 16 years in prison. In 2001 he was again convicted of disorderly conduct. In 2006, he was convicted of attempted assault.

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