An Ashland man who was convicted two years ago of masterminding a bogus payroll check scheme on Tuesday pleaded guilty to a federal escape charge.
Harold Edward James, 51, now faces the prospect of having up to five years added to his original 41-month sentence.
James was charged with escaping from the Transitions Inc. halfway house on 29th Street on May 10. He was transferred there in November from the Federal Detention Center in Oakdale, La., according to court records.
On May 10, James signed out of Transitions to go to the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Huntington, records state. He was allowed to leave the facility on a “limited” pass that required him to check in periodically with the halfway house and to return there at the end of the day.
James failed to comply with the conditions of his pass and “departed the custody” of the federal Bureau of Prisons. He was subsequently arrested in Georgia on June 27.
James pleaded guilty in federal court in June 2010 to heading up a conspiracy to manufacture, utter and possess counterfeit payroll checks.
According to the government, James obtained bank account numbers of various local businesses from people who worked at them, including several of his co-conspirators. Using that information, he printed phony payroll written on those businesses on his computer in amounts ranging from $400 to $850.
James also employed several of his co-defendants to pose as the payees of the bogus checks and to cash them at different businesses, and others to serve as recruiters to bring check-cashers into the conspiracy.
The scheme affected businesses in Boyd and Carter counties, and in Lawrence County, Ohio, costing them roughly $65,000.
The eight others charged in the conspiracy all pleaded guilty and received sentences ranging from probation to 30 months.
U.S. District Judge David L. Bunning scheduled James’ sentencing for Dec. 10.
KENNETH HART can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2654.