- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 16, 2014

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - A homeless man was sentenced in Rhode Island to 30 months in federal prison for his role in a fraudulent check cashing scheme that cost banks in at least four states more than $800,000 combined.

The U.S. Attorney’s office says 27-year-old John Sumo was sentenced Tuesday. He pleaded guilty in April to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud.

Sumo was one of 13 people arrested following a two-year investigation by local, state and federal authorities, dubbed “Operation Check-Mate.”

Authorities say the suspects created hundreds of fraudulent checks drawn on the accounts of individuals and legitimate businesses from July 2011 to January 2014 that were deposited into the accounts of people who were paid to participate in the scheme. More than $800,000 was withdrawn from banks in Rhode Island, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts before the checks were identified as fraudulent.

Two other defendants in the case have pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing. A fourth is scheduled to plead guilty Friday and a fifth is awaiting trial. Eight others are being prosecuted in Rhode Island state court.

Court records show Sumo, a Liberian national, lived in a refugee camp before coming to the United States at the age of 12. Sumo’s attorney, Judith Crowell, asked for a lighter sentence, partly because of Sumo’s painful childhood and substance abuse issues. He has been homeless since 2009.

Sumo was also ordered to serve three years’ supervised release after he leaves prison and pay the banks $814,208 in restitution.

Crowell said she was disappointed with the sentence but understood the judge’s reasoning given the seriousness of the crime.

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