One of several Georgia men charged in connection with an elaborate check-cashing scheme that netted about $24,500 in January pleaded guilty Tuesday to felony forgery charges.
Chaney Demond Sibley, 27, appeared before District Judge Russell C. Fagg and pleaded guilty to three counts of forgery, common scheme, and two counts of forgery — all felonies.
A plea agreement in the case includes a recommendation that Sibley be given a sentence of 10 years to the state Department of Corrections, with all of that time suspended except for the time he has already served. Booking records indicate Sibley has been at the county jail since Jan. 8.
The recommended sentence also includes that Sibley must pay a $500 fine and restitution and write letters of apology to each of the victims.
Fagg agreed with a request from Sibley’s attorney, Scott D. Hagen, that Sibley be released from jail and allowed to return to Georgia until his sentencing.
The judge warned Sibley there would be “huge consequences” if he doesn’t return to Montana for his sentencing.
According to prosecutors, Sibley and three other co-defendants came to Billings from Georgia and recruited transients as part of a check-cashing spree in January.
The men would steal payroll checks from local businesses’ mailboxes and use the transients’ personal information to forge checks. The Georgia men, whom prosecutors have linked to an Atlanta gang, would then pay the transients to cash the checks at area banks.
According to charging documents, the forgers were able to cash about $24,500 in checks at multiple Billings banks between Jan. 6 and 8.
One other Georgia man, Justin Phillips, has also pleaded guilty to forgery charges in the case.
Two other men from Georgia have been charged in connection to a series of check-cashing sprees last October and November that appear to have been committed in the same way and netted about $93,000. Prosecutors have also charged a number of men identified as transients in connection to that case and the January check-cashing spree.
An affidavit states U.S. Postal Service inspectors have informed investigators in Billings that the suspected architects of the scheme are closely associated with a gang in Atlanta, and that they have been under investigation around the country, including in Kansas; St. Louis; Sioux Falls, S.D.; and Eugene, Ore.