Syracuse, NY — They’ve been trickling into court in handcuffs for weeks now.
Suspects in an elaborate scheme are being rounded up and charged with something rarely ever heard of: enterprise corruption. It’s a felony punishable by up to 25 years in prison.
Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick said he will discuss specifics of the case during a news conference at 10 a.m. Thursday. A list of defendants may be released at that time.
Little has been said about the case while the roundups commenced. But prosecutor Melanie Carden has dropped clues in court while talking about individual cases.
In essence, the group — believed to be around 10 people — is accused of forging checks that appear to be on behalf of legitimate parties, then cashing them and pocketing the proceeds before the fraud is caught by the banks.
It’s one of the oldest bad-check schemes in the books. But it’s landed these individuals in serious trouble. During arraignments, Carden has said that the group targeted businesses across Upstate New York. And at least in one case, they are accused of using a gun and intimidating someone into cashing the fake check.
State Supreme Court Justice Gordon Cuffy has been holding suspects in jail with bail at around $25,000 cash or bond.
Enterprise corruption was modeled after the federal racketeering statute. For both laws, the idea is to battle crime by following the money trail. Rarely, however, is enterprise corruption tried in state courts. One longtime lawyer said it’s only the second case of its kind in Onondaga County history.