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City Council leader's wife admits bank fraud role; Trafficked $564,000 in counterfeit checks

The wife of Common Council Majority Leader Demone A. Smith pleaded guilty Monday to federal bank fraud charges in connection with $564,000 in counterfeit checks.

Jayme D. Smith, 35, admitted creating the fraudulent checks and mailing them to individuals across the United States while working for the Buffalo Bills last year.

As part of a plea deal with federal prosecutors, she admitted printing some of the counterfeit checks from her home computer and signing names such as "Keith Marion," "John Gray" and "John White" to those checks.

Defense attorney John V. Elmore said his client's involvement in the check scheme stemmed from an Internet scam to which she fell victim during the National Football League lockout last year. "I believe that she was duped," Elmore said.

Jayme Smith responded to an ad on Craigslist for a payroll-processing clerk and quickly fell victim to "Internet predators" who convinced her that they were running a legitimate company, he said.

Elmore said that it occurred near the start of the NFL lockout and that Smith was worried about whether she would be keeping her job. The Bills' website once listed Jayme Smith as a system analyst in the team's information technology department.

It's not clear what impact, if any, the scam had on the Bills, and a team spokesman declined to comment Monday.

Smith's plea agreement makes no mention of the Bills or the Internet scam but does confirm her admission that she created and mailed $564,000 in bad checks.

Of that amount, an estimated $207,700 in checks was drawn on the account of a single unidentified business.

Court papers also indicate that a forensic analysis of a separate business laptop used by Jayme Smith found evidence of 178 counterfeit checks drawn on four different business bank accounts.

There is no mention of the case's financial impact on the Bills in the court papers, but they do indicate that four out-of-town banks -- Branch Banking & Trust Co. of North Carolina, Regions Bank of Alabama, and Coastal States Bank and Horry County Bank, both of South Carolina -- lost an estimated $20,100 as part of the scam.

Elmore said that the money will be repaid before his client's June sentencing -- the family is taking out a loan to repay the funds -- and that Jayme Smith has "accepted responsibility for what she did."

Smith, who was paid about $900 for her role in the scheme, has tried to cooperate with the government and track down others involved in the scam, Elmore said. The others, who he suspects were working from outside the United States, communicated via email only and were therefore untraceable.

"She should have gotten out of it a lot sooner than she actually did," Elmore said.

Demone Smith, who represents the Masten District, declined to comment on his wife's plea deal but, through Elmore, indicated he is standing by her.

"He is fully supportive of his wife," Elmore said, "and they consider this a private family matter."

Court papers indicate that Jayme Smith could be sentenced to up to 10 months in federal prison by U.S. District Judge William M. Skretny. Elmore said that such time could be served through home confinement.

email:

pfairbanks@buffnews.com and abesecker@buffnews.com