Irvington Men Sentenced for Their Roles in Phony Check Scheme

Two Essex County men have been sentenced to prison for their respective roles in a phony check scheme that stole more than $2 million in merchandise from multiple home-improvement stores throughout the country, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced today.

Officials say Shadeed Phillips, 33, of Irvington, was sentenced to 12 months and one day in prison and Koreen Higgs, 45, also of Irvington, was sentenced to 33 months in prison. Both defendants previously pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Katharine S. Hayden to informations charging them each with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Judge Hayden imposed Phillips’ sentence today and Higgs’ sentence on Feb. 25, 2019, in Newark federal court.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court: Starting in December 2013 and continuing through February 2017, several individuals, including Phillips and Higgs, conspired to obtain merchandise or store credit from home-improvement stores in locations along the eastern United States, including New Jersey, by purchasing items with fraudulent checks.

Police says Phillips, Higgs and others entered home-improvement and other retail stores and gathered several high-value items like air conditioners or hardwood flooring. Phillips, Higgs and others then typically “purchased” the items either by handing a cashier a fraudulent check with a phony name but authentic account and routing numbers, or by pretending to be an authorized signatory on a store credit account that they had previously opened with a phony check.

During some of the transactions, Phillips, Higgs and others displayed fake driver’s licenses that had been created by one of the other conspirators, which either duplicated the phony name imprinted on the fraudulent check they presented for payment or matched the name of an authorized signatory on a store credit account that they had previously opened.

In total, Phillips, Higgs and others stole over $2 million in merchandise from various retailers in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, North Carolina, Georgia, Virginia, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and South Carolina.

In addition to the prison term, Judge Hayden sentenced Phillips and Higgs each to three years of supervised release.