2 more charged; court documents shed new light on elaborate check-cashing scheme

2014-03-06T18:02:00Z 2014-04-25T11:39:30Z 2 more charged; court documents shed new light on elaborate check-cashing schemeBy EDDIE GREGG egregg@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

Two more men were charged Thursday in an elaborate check-cashing scheme — bringing the number of defendants linked to the forgeries to nine — and court records indicate that several more could also face charges.

Prosecutors have filed 15 felony charges against two transients they say were among those recruited last fall by men with Atlanta gang ties to cash forged checks that netted about $109,000 in Billings.

The two new defendants, James Michael Dailey, 27, and Christopher Paul McKeen, 32, appeared Thursday by video from the county jail in Yellowstone County Justice Court.

Dailey faces 12 charges of felony forgery by accountability, while McKeen faces three counts of felony forgery by accountability.

Judge Pedro Hernandez set Dailey’s bond at a total of $75,000 and McKeen’s bond at $20,000.

Deputy Yellowstone County Attorney Margaret R. Gallagher said that Dailey cashed the most checks out of any of the group of transients involved in the scheme. She also said that Dailey continued cashing checks even after being told by a detective investigating the scheme that what he was doing was illegal.

Charging documents indicate Dailey, McKeen and at least five others were recruited by a group of men from the Atlanta area to take part in the scheme.

An affidavit filed Thursday 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.

Six men from the Atlanta area and one other local transient have been charged in Yellowstone County in connection to the check-cashing scheme.

The suspects from Atlanta are believed to have stolen business checks from mailboxes, making images of the checks and then placing the originals back in the mailboxes in an effort to avoid detection, court records state.

The men from Atlanta would then make the forged checks payable to the transients, who were paid to cash the checks at area banks on several dates in October and November.

Court records also say at least one of the men from Atlanta bought clothes from Wal-Mart to disguise the transients before sending them to cash the checks.

The affidavit states that authorities haven’t yet found Duke Littlewhirlwind, David Miller, Brandon Bulltail or Joseph Curtis Morrison Jr., the other men whose names appear on some of the dozens of forged checks that were cashed in Billings.

Investigation also revealed that the organizers of the scheme initiated one set of forgeries in October and then returned to Georgia before coming back to Billings in November to commit the same type of forgeries using some of the same transients, charging documents state.

Dailey and McKeen are scheduled to be arraigned in District Court on Tuesday.

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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