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A Georgia man charged in connection to an elaborate check-cashing scheme perpetrated on Billings banks and businesses last fall appeared in court Thursday and entered guilty pleas to five counts of forgery.

Appearing before District Judge Mary Jane McCalla Knisely, Ryan Vincent Hill admitted he facilitated the presentation of forged checks at several Billings banks in October and November 2013. Judge Knisely scheduled Hill’s sentencing hearing for Aug. 14.

According to prosecutors, Hill and five other men with ties to an Atlanta gang came to Billings and recruited transients as part of check-cashing sprees committed in October, November and January.

The men from Georgia would steal payroll checks from the mailboxes of local businesses and use the checks in combination with the transients’ personal information to forge checks, according to an affidavit. The Georgia men would then pay the transients to cash the checks at area banks.

The Yellowstone County Attorney’s Office has charged five other men from Georgia and a number of other men identified as transients in connection to the check-cashing sprees. The total value of the dozens of forged checks 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.

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City news reporter for the Billings Gazette