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Scammer who recruited homeless to defraud banks is sentenced

An Atlanta man who brought his check cashing scam to Buffalo will be staying in New York for one to three years, thanks to the sentence he received Monday morning in State Supreme Court.

Robert Haggins, 31, is described as the ringleader of scheme that used homeless people and drug addicts to cash forged checks at local banks. He pleaded guilty in December to three counts of grand larceny in the third degree, part of a 24-count indictment, and was sentenced by Justice Russell P. Buscaglia to one to three years in prison on each count, with the sentences to run concurrently.

Upon his release from New York State custody, Haggins will be returned to Georgia, where he will be jailed again for violating probation.

Prosecutor Candace Vogel said that when Haggins came to Western New York, he recruited nine men and women, most of them homeless or drug addicted, to help defraud local banks. Haggins would provide forged checks issued in the name of his accomplices, and they would then cash the checks, worth between $2,000 and $5,000, at local banks, in exchange for part of the proceeds. Prosecutors believe the scam went on for about six months, from November 2015 to May 2016.

Haggins’ accomplices also have been arrested, convicted and sentenced.

Buscaglia ordered Haggins to pay restitution totaling nearly $27,000 to Citizens, M&T, KeyBank and First Niagara banks. His co-defendants were ordered to pay the remainder of the stolen money, which amounted to more than $52,000.

Haggins was arrested with several others in Alabama in 2010 for operating a similar scam.

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