Three men plead guilty in sheriff's office scam

Three Philadelphia men pled guilty in federal court today to roles in a fraudulent check scheme that drained more than $400,000 from the city sheriff’s office, with alleged help from one of the sheriff’s internal auditors.

Robert Rogers, Jackiem Wright and Reginald Berry each pled guilty to one count of wire fraud for accepting and cashing some of the bogus checks, made out to three  individuals and three companies, according to a presentation by federal prosecutors Sarah L. Grieb and Christopher Diviny.

U. S. District Judge Legrome D. Davis scheduled sentencing hearings for the three men in April.

 Federal sentencing guidelines suggest a prison term of 27 to 33 months for Rogers, 35, who admitted cashing checks worth about $10,000 and distributing the rest of the checks to individuals he had suggested for the scam.

Wright and Berry, both 29, admitted depositing two checks in their business account, securing $36,466 from one check and attempting to withdraw the proceeds of a second check, for $111,089.  But the Bank of America  got suspicious and contacted  the sheriff’s office, which froze the proceeds. Sentencing guidelines call for 15 to 21 months imprisonment for Wright and Berry, but Judge Davis made clear that he would decide their sentence.

The alleged ringleader of the check scam, operating from 2007 to 2010, was Richard Bell, an “internal accounting auditor” for the sheriff’s office, fired at the end of November when the feds announced charges in the case.

Bell is scheduled to submit a plea in the case next week. He  allegedly wrote the checks on sheriff accounts handling the proceeds from sales of tax- or mortgage-delinquent properties.