Georgia Man Accused In Check Forgery Scheme

Georgia Man Accused In Check Forgery Scheme

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A Georgia man has been arrested in connection with a check forgery scheme that cost the Jefferson County SPCA $12,000 .

Watertown police arrested 21 year old Javonte Johnson of 3444 Woods Drive in Decatur.

He's charged with first-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument and third-degree grand larceny for the alleged crimes committed in the city.

According to police, a representative from Watertown Savings Bank reported a possible theft from one of their clients, the Jefferson County SPCA, on September 20.

The investigation showed that someone had cashed three forged checks, that were made to look like checks from the SPCA, at branches in Clayton, Alexandria Bay and Watertown.

The SPCA is now out $12,000 and the executive director SAYS the situation is devastating.

"For something like this to happen to an organization, especially a nonprofit that does so much good for the community, you question who would do something like this," said Heather Spezzano, executive director.  "That's pretty much your operating budget and what pays your bills. It takes a lot of fundraising and a lot of donations to raise that money, so it definitely hurts."

The Jefferson County Sheriff's Office has been investigating the larcenies in Clayton and Alexandria Bay.

The Watertown Police Department arrested Johnson Tuesday in Saratoga Springs. Police described him as "one of the suspects from this investigation."

When Johnson was brought back to Watertown, members of the sheriff's office charged him with additional counts first-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument and third-degree grand larceny for the other larcenies in Jefferson County. 

According to police, Johnson possessed the forged checks, but wasn't the one who actually cashed them.

"We do believe there are other persons involved and we are still trying to investigate and identify those other people," said Detective Lieutenant Joe Donoghue of the Watertown Police Department.

According to police, Johnson had been recently released from jail, where he had been held on similar charges. 

The Post Star in Glens Falls reports State Police arrested Johnson twice in the past few weeks for passing forged checks at banks in Warren and Saratoga counties, north of Albany. That's where Watertown Police found him.

"We picked him up in Saratoga Springs, when he was being released from jail there," said Donoghue.

Police said they don't know why the SPCA was targeted. Spezzano says she has closed down the SPCA bank account in question, and started a new account. She also says she's hopeful the SPCA will be able to recover the money that was stolen.

"I'm fully confident in law enforcement that we will be able to recoup the money," she said.

Johnson was arraigned in city court Wednesday and ordered held in the Jefferson County Jail in lieu of $25,000 bail or $50,000 bond.

Police said this is an ongoing investigation. If you have information, you're asked to call Watertown police at 315-782-2233 or the sheriff’s office at 315-788-1441. 

As for the SPCA, Spezzano asks that the community still supports it. She says the organization needs the support now more than ever.

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