HIGHLAND PARK, NJ—Four people from New Brunswick were arrested in what authorities described as a "a scheme to pass bad checks in four counties and collect more than $100,000 from local banks and check-cashing businesses."
The Middlesex County Proecutor's Office (MCPO) announced 16 arrests in total, which included individuals from Roselle, Rahway, Mahwah, Linden, Elizabeth, and Ewing as well as one person from Michigan, according to the MCPO press release
The New Brunswickers arrested were 38-year-old Sonnel Santiago, 27-year-old Maria Cancel-Martinez, and 30-year-old Indiana Martinez, each charged with third-degree counts of passing bad checks and theft by deception, and 25-year-old Diana Rodriguez, who was charged with third-degree counts of attempting to pass a bad check and theft by deception.
Middlesex County Prosecutor Andrew C. Carey and Highland Park Police Department (HPPD) Chief Stephen J. Rizco made the announcement of the arrests, likely because the bank where it all started was in the small town.
"The defendants were arrested and charged following an investigation that began on August 11, 2015, when authorities at a bank in Highland Park said five individuals had arrived and were attempting to cash bogus payroll checks," read the release.
Authorities said the five arrests "initiated a wider investigation" eventually leading to them catching people "passing bad checks at banks and check cashing businesses in Middlesex, Somerset, Union and Monmouth counties."
According to the release, defendants were charged with various roles in the scheme between June 30 and September 29, and their bails ranged from $10,000 to $200,000.
Prosecutor Andrew C. Carey said that "a number of police agencies" participated in the investigation and arrests, thanking local departments in Highland Park, Linden, Metuchen, Rahway, and Roselle, as well as the Middlesex County Sheriff’s Office and the Union County Prosecutor’s Office.
The investigation is being conducted by Detective Ted Pardo of the HPPD and Detective Ryan Tighe of the MCPO. They determined that three people "obtained and prepared bogus pay checks, which were distributed to other individuals who cashed them at the banks and check-cashing businesses."
The following three people were charged with promoting organized street crime, a first-degree offense, and second-degree counts of conspiracy to write and distribute bad checks:
- Ralph Jean-Gilles, age 33 (Roselle)
- Marcanthony Dorcent, age 21 (Roselle)
- Machanley Jules, age 28 (Rahway)
Bail was set at $200,000 for Jean-Gilles and $100,000 each for Dorcent and Machanley. Those three defendants could face prison sentences between 10 years and 20 years in state prison, if convicted.
Another Roselle resident, 33-year-old Shiraan Singleton was charged with a second-degree count of conspiracy to write and pass bad checks and a third-degree count of promoting prostitution in an incident unrelated to the check scheme. Her bail was set at $60,000.
In addition to the three New Brunswick residents charged in the case, the following individuals were also charged with third-degree counts of passing bad checks and theft by deception:
- James Wellington Jr., age 48 (Mahwah)
- Marcel Rose Jr., age 41 (Linden)
- Cheyenne Little, age 23 (Elizabeth)
- Natasha Colon, age 25, (Roselle)
- Kamila Price, age 21, (Belleville, Michigan)
The following individuals were charged with a fourth-degree count of passing bad checks and a third-degree count of theft by deception:
- Derell Roberts, age 31 (Elizabeth)
- Jahtiah Nix, age 24 (Ewing)
- Tristin Keck, age 25 (Roselle)
The investigation is continuing, and anyone with information is asked to call MCPO Detective Tighe at (732) 745-3300.
Charlie is the founder and editor of New Brunswick Today, and the winner of the Awbrey Award for Community-Oriented Local Journalism. He is a proud Rutgers University journalism graduate and a community organizer, and was an independent candidate for Mayor of New Brunswick in 2018.