"… a tenacious courtroom fighter with an instinct for the jugular and a keen eye for incongruity."

Philadelphia Magazine

Feds Bust Counterfeiting Scam at U. of Pennsylvania

Source:

Federal authorities last week busted what they said was one of the biggest counterfeiting schemes in United States history, which allegedly used phony checks to try to bilk hundreds of millions of dollars from many prominent Philadelphia institutions - including the University of Pennsylvania.

A federal grand jury indicted 38 people on charges of racketeering, bank fraud and other charges related to a massive fake-check scam.

Members of the group allegedly obtained microfiche copies of corporate and business checks and then "fraudulently represent[ed] themselves" to printing companies to order books of blank checks, according to a statement released by the U.S. Attorney's office.

Reginald Greene, 38, of Philadelphia's Overbrook Park section - about four miles west of the Penn campus - is accused of being the operation's ringleader. Greene served 20 months in prison in 1991 on fraud charges. In 1996, authorities in Delaware prosecuted him on similar charges but failed to get a conviction and eventually dropped the charges.

Greene's attorney, Dennis Cogan, said Wednesday that Greene plans to plead not guilty. He emphasized the charges so far are simply "accusations."

"He's been down this road before and knows it's an accusation and that's all it is," Cogan said.

The scheme, which allegedly began in 1993, centered around large Philadelphia-area corporations, including the Philadelphia 76ers, WPVI-TV, U.S. Healthcare, the Cozen and O'Connor law firm and several charitable and educational organizations.

According to the U.S. Attorney's Office statement, Greene's organization was very complex.

Greene and 15 "lieutenants" allegedly ordered tens of thousands of blank checks and then delivered them to various "check passers," who deposited or cashed them.

Check passers often had false identities and disguises, the statement says.

The real victims, though, are the 14 financial institutions and credit unions, which agreed to repay Penn and the other organizations the collective losses of $6 million.

Total losses could have been in the range of $1 billion had more of the group's checks cleared, authorities said.

University officials yesterday were still reviewing the case. Because the banks have agreed to repay the institutions, it is unlikely that Penn will suffer any economic losses.

Most of the defendants have been arrested and are in custody. Bail hearings are being held this week and next. Cogan said he expects a trial to begin in about six months.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Amy Kurland, who is one of the lead prosecutors for the case, said she expects many of the defendants to plead guilty and that she will try those who don't together.

Agencies including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Secret Service and the Philadelphia Police Department have been investigating the alleged scheme for several years.

Officials are still trying to determine how the ring was able to obtain the microfiche copies of blank checks. One of the suspects arrested worked for one of the institutions that was victimized, authorities said.

… a tenacious courtroom fighter with an instinct for the jugular and a keen eye for incongruity.

—Philadelphia Magazine

Unique and talented, calm
yet powerful, Dennis is the lawyer who's always thinking outside the box.

—Felicia Sarner, attorney

There are some who are good at law, others who are good at trial.
Dennis is simply the best that I've ever seen in my 35 years in court.

—Tom Bello, attorney