Southeast Texans Guilty in Counterfeit Check Conspiracy
BEAUMONT, December 11, 2014 - Four Southeast Texas residents have pleaded guilty to federal counterfeiting charges in the Eastern District of Texas, announced U.S. Attorney John M. Bales today.
Felicia Nicole Ardoin, 30, of Beaumont, Sonja DeAnn Lee, 31, of Orange, Texas, Norris Marie Narcisse, III, 26, of Port Arthur, Texas, and Kevin Douglas Orphe, 41, of Port Arthur, each pleaded guilty to conspiracy to counterfeit business checks. The pleas were held today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Keith F. Giblin.
According to information presented in court, a joint task force was formed after the Beaumont Police Department received an unusual number of complaints from merchants, financial institutions, and account holders that they were the victims of counterfeit checks from January 2012 through January 2014. Twelve companies in the Golden Triangle complained their bank accounts were compromised by 144 counterfeit checks manufactured to appear as legitimate payroll checks. Numerous grocery stores and other merchants who cashed the checks were also affected by the organized counterfeiting activities of the defendants. Losses to merchants and financial institutions exceeded $110,000.
A federal grand jury returned an indictment on Sep. 3, 2014 charging these four defendants and Kenneth Ray Smith, 39, of Orange, with federal violations. Smith pleaded guilty on Nov. 13, 2014, to the conspiracy charge and being a felon in possession of a firearm. The defendants face up to five years in federal prison for the conspiracy conviction. Smith faces up to an additional 10 years in federal prison for the firearms conviction. Sentencing dates have not been set.
In addition to these five defendants, another 25 persons either cashed the checks or otherwise negotiated the checks knowing them to be counterfeited. Those persons will be prosecuted in state courts.
This case was investigated by the Beaumont Police Department, Texas Department of Public Safety, and Homeland Security Investigations HSI-ICE and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Rawls.