HEMET: Inland Empire man pleads guilty in phony check scheme

LOS ANGELES – A Hemet resident pleaded guilty today to a federal conspiracy charge for participating in a scheme in which he and another man used information obtained from pilfered mail to create bogus checks and
identity documents used to make purchases for items that were later returned to stores for cash.

Jason William Leonard, 37, entered his plea in Los Angeles to a wire fraud count and admitted that the scheme caused more than $114,000 in losses, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Leonard faces up to 20 years behind bars, with sentencing set for March 20, federal prosecutors said.

In a plea agreement filed in Los Angeles federal court, Leonard admitted that he conspired with Michael Joseph Tomassacci, 39, of San Jacinto to create checks used to purchase merchandise with the intent to later return the
items for cash.

Authorities are searching for Tomassacci, who is considered a fugitive.

Leonard specifically admitted that he and his co-conspirator used personal identifying information from about 265 victims to create checks that were used to purchase goods at stores, including Walmarts in Redlands and Santee, according to the plea document.

The total intended loss of the conspiracy was more than $250,000 and actual losses totaled $114,565, prosecutors said.

“Mail theft is a crime that is much more than an inconvenience for postal customers,” U.S. Attorney Eileen M. Decker said. “This type of crime leads to identity theft and significant losses to financial institutions and other American businesses.”

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