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SPRINGFIELD – Beth Phillips, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced today that eight defendants have been indicted for their roles in a conspiracy to create and cash more than $134,000 in counterfeit checks in a three-state area. The scheme allegedly involved stealing mail from businesses in Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma in order to create counterfeit business checks, then using stolen identities to cash the counterfeit checks.
Lisa Strait-Destefano, 39, and Derrick Haggard, also known as “Disco,” 34, both of Nixa, Mo., his brother, Dietrich Haggard, also known as “D-Ball,” 31, and Drew Michael Basten, 23, both of Springfield, Mo., Paul Douglas, Jr., 44, of Ft. Leonard Wood, Mo., Christopher Quale, 26, of Saint Robert, Mo., Lawrence Eidson, 50, of Buffalo, Mo., Zachary Skinner, 24, were charged in a 59-count indictment that was returned under seal by a federal grand jury in Springfield on July 21, 2011. That indictment has been unsealed and made public following the arrests and court appearances of several defendants.
The federal indictment alleges that each of the eight defendants participated in a conspiracy to commit bank fraud, create and cash counterfeit checks and steal mail from July 1 to Oct. 25, 2010.
According to the indictment, Strait-Destefano and Haggard led the conspiracy to create counterfeit checks using original checks and other material that the group stole from private mailboxes in Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma. Haggard allegedly recruited individuals, including Dietrich Haggard and Eidson, to steal mail from private mailboxes.
Dietrich Haggard and Eidson, along with others associated with the scheme, primarily stole mail from business locations, the indictment says, looking for mail which contained original checks so that the original checks could be counterfeited. They allegedly provided those checks to Derrick Haggard and Strait-Destefano, who created the counterfeit checks.
Derrick Haggard allegedly recruited persons, including Douglas, Quale, Eidson, Skinner and Basten, to take the counterfeit checks to financial institutions or commercial establishments and attempt to cash them. Strait-Destefano directed Derrick Haggard and others as to which businesses to approach, the indictment says, based upon her experiences in the banking industry. Strait-Destefano and Derrick Haggard allegedly provided the check passers with false identification documents, which used the identity of real persons without their permission to match the names placed on the counterfeit checks.
During the time of the conspiracy, the group was successfully able to pass $61,335 in counterfeit checks at financial institutions in Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma. The group unsuccessfully attempted to pass an additional $73,111 in counterfeit checks.
In addition to conspiracy, the indictment charges 21 counts of bank fraud, 21 counts of possessing, making or cashing counterfeit checks and 16 counts of aggravated identity theft against various defendants.
Phillips cautioned that the charges contained in this indictment are simply accusations, and not evidence of guilt. Evidence supporting the charges must be presented to a federal trial jury, whose duty is to determine guilt or innocence.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Randall D. Eggert. It was investigated by the U.S. Postal Service, the U.S. Secret Service, the police departments of Springfield, Branson, Hollister, St. Robert, Carthage, Nixa, Troy, Strafford, Union, Washington, Linn, Lebanon, and Neosho in Missouri, the Tulsa, Okla., Police Department, the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the Christian County, Mo., Sheriff’s Department, the Greene County, Mo., Sheriff’s Department, the Fayetteville, Ark., Police Department, the Arkansas State Police, and the Crawford County, Kan., Sheriff’s Department.