A Georgia man charged Jan. 9 in connection with an elaborate check-cashing scheme in Billings admitted on Thursday to his involvement in the case.
Appearing before District Judge Randal Spaulding, 24-year-old Justin Davone Phillips, of Riverdale, Ga., pleaded guilty to five felony counts of forgery by accountability, common scheme.
Phillips admitted to the charges as part of a plea deal with county prosecutors that recommends concurrent 10-year sentences in the custody of the Montana Department of Corrections for each charge, with all suspended except for time he's already served at the Yellowstone County Detention Facility.
The deal also calls for Phillips to pay concurrent $1,500 fines for each count, write apology letters to victims, take court ordered classes and pay a yet-to-be-determined amount of restitution.
He is one of at least a dozen people accused of a scheme that involved Phillips and three other Georgia men recruiting and paying area transients to cash almost $93,000 in forged checks at local banks.
It involved stealing payroll checks from mailboxes and using the information on them to forge checks, according to court documents.
The plea deal also called for Phillips to be released from the county jail on his own recognizance after entering guilty pleas and until sentencing. Spaulding set a sentencing date of June 23 for Phillips.
In November of 2013, two other Georgia men were charged in a similar scheme. Their cases are pending.