Cuevas Cost, the ringleader of a counterfeit check ring that used homeless people to pass the fraudulent checks, was sentenced to 51 months in prison today.
Police from St. Louis, St. Charles County and St. Louis County notified postal inspectors and the Secret Service in 2010 of homeless people cashing counterfeit checks throughout the metropolitan area. Under the scheme, residents of Atlanta traveled to the St. Louis area to steal checks from the mailboxes of local businesses. Using the information on the stolen checks they counterfeited new checks and made them payable to homeless individuals. On March 17 and on March 24 of 2011, Cuevas Ban'e Cost and four others traveled from Atlanta to St. Louis to engage in the crime, according to federal prosecutors.
Cost was responsible for counterfeiting the checks, directing the forgery of the completed checks, conducting surveillance while the checks were being cashed, and paying the check cashers.
Cost and his co-conspirators were arrested March 24, 2011, after trying to cash a counterfeit check at a Brentwood bank. Cost possessed counterfeit checks and $1,500 in counterfeit currency that he intended to use as payment for the homeless individuals. In the hotel room he shared with one of his co-defendants, LaPortia Byrd, law enforcement officials found counterfeiting equipment including computers, printers, and blank check stock as well as checks stolen from more than 18 individuals and companies. The value of the stolen checks found in the hotel room, the counterfeit checks which had been passed during the scheme, and the counterfeit checks found during in the conspirators' vehicles and hotel room was $42,407.
Cuevas Ban'e Cost, Jr., 22, of Atlanta was sentenced today before U.S. District Judge Jean C. Hamilton.
Co-defendants, Timothy C. Clark, Darrell L. Thomas, and LaPortia A. Byrd of Atlanta, and Anthony Mack and Lorenzo C. Long of St. Louis, have already been sentenced.