NEWPORT NEWS, Va. – An Atlanta man was sentenced Monday nearly 10 years in prison for recruiting people from local homeless shelters to cash counterfeit business checks.
Court documents say 58-year-old David Mero traveled from Georgia to Virginia and other states on at least three occasions between September 2015 and June 2016 and recruited at least six homeless people to cash at least 40 counterfeit checks worth nearly $105,000.
The records state Mero and his co-conspirators compromised these business accounts by stealing the account holders’ mail from local business parks, then lured homeless people into the scheme by offering to hire them as day laborers for construction jobs. After transporting the homeless people long distances from shelters to which they were required to return, Mero told them they would be cashing checks instead of performing the work initially offered.
Mero obtained their identifying information and sent it to other conspirators, who then used the information to make the checks payable to the homeless recruits. Mero gave checks to the homeless and told them to cash them at nearby banks before he took the homeless back to their shelters.
Documents say that on at least one occasion, Mero held a homeless recruit at gunpoint after he refused to cash checks in furtherance of the scheme. The homeless man attempted to cash four counterfeit checks at Mero’s direction after facing threats to himself and his family.
Mero was arrested in Texas in June 2016 while engaging in this activity. He was previously prosecuted in 2009 in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina for conspiring to carry out this same scheme.