WILLIAMSPORT – The notorious leader of a criminal organization accused of scamming banks and credit unions in Pennsylvania and other states will remain in jail in Keystone State.
U.S. Intermediate District Magistrate Judge William I. Arbuckle on Friday dismissed a petition from Detroit-area James Harris-Bey, 54, to be released into the custody of a sister in Michigan.
Harris-Bey awaits trial on charges of bank fraud and conspiracy to commit bank fraud. The charges are set out in a recently unsealed indictment accusing him of scamming banks and credit unions in northern Pennsylvania. Authorities said he scammed financial institutions for tens of thousands of dollars.
The charges allege:
Harris-Bey and his co-conspirators opened accounts with Pennsylvania driver’s licenses obtained through forged leases, paychecks and income statements. They made deposits using fake checks created by Harris-Bey that contained the names of fictitious businesses.
They then made withdrawals at various branches the same day before financial institutions could reconcile the accounts.
The indictment cites eight withdrawals of $ 1,552 each from the branches of the First Community National Bank in Sayre, Rome, Towanda, Mansfield and Wellsboro; four withdrawals of $ 1,579 at Citizens & Northern Bank branches in Athens, Wysox, Troy and Mansfield; and a withdrawal of $ 1,578 from Visions Federal Credit Union in Sayre, all on October 25, 2019.
The accounts of all financial institutions had been opened with checks purportedly from Comfort Home Health Care, the indictment says.
The defendants are charged with using people posing as home nurses to attempt to open accounts on March 1 at Citizen & Northern branches in Williamsport and Jersey Shore.
Harris-Bey was arrested in Mississippi on March 23 and said during his arraignment that he was traveling to Arizona to be with his wife.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Alisan V. Martin disputed this claim, alleging he was passing through Mississippi, Louisiana and Tennessee to target banks in those states.
Check printing software was found in his vehicle and laptops and a printer were seized, Martin said. And an analysis of his cell phones revealed he was leading the co-conspiratorial movement, she added.
Harris-Bey began ripping off banks and credit unions less than three months after serving an 80-month federal sentence in Ohio on a similar check-cashing program in which he was to return 765 $ 112, noted Arbuckle.
He was one of 34 people indicted in the previous scheme that hit 35 banks and credit unions in Ohio, North Carolina, Michigan, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, Virginia, Connecticut and Massachusetts.
In his order, Arbuckle cited some of Martin’s arguments, as well as these:
* The evidence that Harris-Bey was deeply involved in a massive multi-state bank fraud scheme from October 3, 2019 until the time of his arrest in Mississippi is substantial, if not overwhelming.
* He has a significant history of fraud convictions from the age of 20, plus assault with intent to commit murder in 1990, providing false information to a police officer in 1994 and fleeing and escaping in 2006.
* National Crime Information Center records list 25 aliases and six dates of birth for him.
Harris-Bey has argued that he should be released because he is not receiving adequate medical care for diabetes at the Columbia County Jail.
Citing testimony from a prison nurse in custody that Harris-Bey disagreed with a doctor’s diagnosis and refused to take an antibiotic, Arbuckle found he was offered adequate care .
He urged Harris-Bey to put aside his personality conflict with medical staff and at least consult with them about appropriate treatment in the future.
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