Saturday, April 19, 2014
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This audacious bandit literally wrote the book on white collar crime

Unlimited money... 'NO CONSEQUENCES,' he wrote. Today he was sentenced to 12 years for massive fraud.

The kingpin in a massive check-kiting scheme that illegally netted at least $658,000 also wrote a “How-To” book on the art of committing white-collar crime during his last stay in prison.

Phillip Weems, 36, will have plenty of time to write a sequel. On Jan. 30, he plead guilty to multiple counts of fraud and making straw purchases of guns. He was sentenced today to a federal prison term of more than 10 years.

Prosecutors said Weems was the mastermind of a vast operation that employed 70 runners and produced 597 forged and counterfeit checks totalling $1.2 million. His victims included check cashing businesses, the Montgomery Co. Court System, financial institutions, and, oddly, breeders of pure-bred English bull dogs.

Weems saw the light while serving time for an assault and a 1997 gunpoint robbery. Those victims included a mother and child and an unarmed couple. He garnered a little cash and 6 to 12 years in jail.

He raised his sights and did some research. He decided to go hunting for bigger game. As an inmate, Weems penned a 56-page manifesto spelling out his plans to move on from violent offenses and into white-collar crime.

His reasoning was compelling: more money and less time in prison if he was caught.

He called it Crime Pays, Volume 1: Instructional Manual on How to Successfully Implement One of the Most Advanced Adult Hotline Operations.

“White-Collar Crime is one of the most sophisticated rackets of illegal activity today. Unlimited amounts of money can be made virtually overnight and the parties involved usually face minimal and/or NO CONSEQUENCES at al.," he wrote.

"This is because federal, state and local authorities are so occupied in their fight against black-collar crime and the alleged WAR ON DRUGS, that none of them have the time and/or manpower to effectively undermine white-collar crime, which over the years has become extremely advanced.”

And he promised a second volume.

According to court papers, as an addendum to his first book, he included a special preview of Volume 2: Instructional Manual on How to Successfully Implement One of the Most Advanced Business Checking Operations. In that preview, Weems laid out an eight-step process “to obtain fake photo id cards for five stolen identities.”

When he was released from jail in 2008, he was undeterred and went immediately to work on his plans. He built a small criminal empire by creating fake companies — or stealing the names of existing companies — and creating fictitious checking accounts for them. Though he was a convicted felon and barred from owning firearms or ammunition, he arranged the straw purchases of two handguns and a shotgun.

The scheme ran from January to November 2009.

Weems had boasted in his book that he held “the highest degree in criminology through utilizing prison time to his advantage . . . [by building] . . . a multi-million dollar empire that investigators and law enforcement have been unable to infiltrate.”

It didn't take long for investigators to shut the operation down.

When he was confronted by prosecutors for victimizing 50 people and businesses, he was unrepentant, according to court papers, arguing that since insurance would cover the losses, the number of victims was far fewer.

He was right about one thing: For stealing $658,000 as a white collar criminal he received less time than for the armed robbery which netted him a relative pittance.

Weems plead guilty on Jan. 30 to conspiracy to utter counterfeit and forged securities, uttering a forged security and aiding and abetting, uttering a counterfeit security and aiding and abetting, and three counts of aiding and abetting the making of false statements to federal firearms licensees.

In addition to the prison term, U.S. District Court Judge Juan R. Sanchez ordered Weems to pay restitution in the amount of $182,956.36, a $600 special assessment, and ordered three years of supervised release.


This story was modified Feb. 11.

Contact Sam Wood at 215-854-2796 or Follow @samwoodiii on Twitter.

Contact the Breaking News Desk at 215-854-2443; Follow @phillynews on Twitter.

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