- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 26, 2014

COLUMBUS, Neb. (AP) - Two Columbus men have been accused of mail and wire fraud involving more than $4.6 million in counterfeit money orders and cashier’s checks sent to pay for items being sold on Craigslist.

Federal prosecutors have indicted Howard Barta, 51, and Dennis Wood, 58, saying the two schemed to defraud hundreds of people who advertised items on Craigslist starting in January 2010 and ending in March 2011.

The two are charged with conspiracy to commit fraud, 15 counts of mail fraud and eight counts of wire fraud. Each count carries a maximum prison sentence of 20 years.

Public phone listings could not be found for Barta and Wood. Online court records don’t list attorneys for them.

Barta and Wood would agree to buy the Craigslist items and then send the sellers counterfeit cashier’s checks or money orders that greatly exceeded the sale prices, prosecutors said. The sellers would be instructed to deposit the cashier’s checks or money orders into their bank accounts and send back the extra money to the defendants.

According to prosecutors, Barta and Wood mailed a little less than 4,500 counterfeit payments totaling more than $4.6 million to about 1,900 sellers.

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