A Billings judge on Thursday gave a Georgia man 20 years probation and ordered him to pay back more than $60,000 for his role in orchestrating a check-cashing scheme that victimized Billings banks and businesses last fall.
District Judge Mary Jane McCalla Knisely gave Ryan Vincent Hill, 22, a 20-year-suspended prison sentence for three forgery charges and ordered him to pay $60,550.91 in restitution.
“You came into this community and orchestrated an elaborate check-cashing scheme,” Judge Knisely said. “That is not OK.”
As recommended in Hill’s plea agreement, the judge dismissed two forgery charges. She also told Hill to write letters of apology to all the victims and all the transients involved in the scheme.
According to prosecutors, Hill and a second man with ties to an Atlanta gang, 22-year-old Xavier Cornelius Shields, came to Billings and recruited transients as part of check-cashing sprees committed in October and November.
The Georgia men would steal payroll checks from the mailboxes of local businesses and use the transients’ personal information to forge the checks, according to an affidavit. The Georgia men would then pay the transients to cash the checks at area banks.
In a separate case, the Yellowstone County Attorney’s Office has charged four other men from Georgia and a number of other transients in connection with an essentially identical check-cashing spree committed in January.
The total value of the dozens of forged checks cashed between the two cases was about $117,500, according to court records.
An affidavit states U.S. Postal Service inspectors have informed investigators that the suspected architects of the scheme have been under investigation around the country.