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Three are charged with writing bad checks

March 28, 2006|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, PA.

Three Franklin County residents have been charged with passing counterfeit checks in an operation Borough of Chambersburg police said involved hundreds of checks worth hundreds of thousands of dollars in Pennsylvania and Washington County.

Audra Ann Gonzalez, 30, of 166 Kennedy St. in Chambersburg, was charged earlier this month with 23 bad check charges, police said. Jeremiah E. Lucas, 19, and Donna Kay Lucas, 28, both of 256 Hamilton Ave., Greencastle, Pa., were charged with two counts each of bad checks and criminal conspiracy.

Police allege the three were involved in a bad check writing scheme "dating back several years with hundreds of checks being passed at businesses including Giant Foods, Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Lowe's, Target, Kohl's and Kmart stores in two states," according to a police statement. Borough police filed charges relating to bad checks written to the Giant and Kmart stores in Chambersburg, according to the affidavits of probable cause.

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The affidavits for Gonzalez, aka Audra Cummings and Audra Caldwell, state that on Jan. 26, a Kmart loss prevention officer told police that Kmart stores in Franklin County and Maryland had received 84 bad checks from Jeremiah Lucas or his wife Donna, aka Donna Hess.

Eighteen of those checks were passed between January 2004 and February 2005 at the Chambersburg Kmart, police said. Those checks were written on closed or nonexistent accounts, police allege.

From December 2000 to January 2006, Kmart figures indicated Gonzalez wrote 39 checks to Kmart stores totaling $3,800.81 using similar bank information and checks as the Lucases, police said.

Jeremiah Lucas was charged in Washington County District Court on March 13 with 33 combined counts of theft and writing bad checks.

A Giant Food loss prevention officer on March 8 informed Chambersburg police that 171 bad checks totaling $21,044.42 had been written to Giant stores in Pennsylvania and Maryland. Thirteen of the checks allegedly were passed at the Chambersburg store by Gonzalez between June 2004 and January 2006.

She also has faced charges of writing back checks in Washington County in 2003 and 2005, according to District Court records.

Jeremiah Lucas allegedly passed two checks at the Chambersburg Giant between July and December 2005 worth $137.52, and Donna Lucas allegedly wrote two bad checks to the store valued at $106.79, police said.

During that time, the Lucases and Gonzalez used checks printed with five different addresses in Maryland and Pennsylvania. The checks were written to closed or nonexistent accounts at State Farm Bank, Waypoint Bank, Adams County National Bank and M&T Bank, police said.

From Feb. 25 to Dec. 23, 2005, borough police said 858 bad checks totaling $91,783.86 were written on phony accounts at State Farm Bank. The Lucases had applied 21 times for accounts at that bank, then used information from the applications to order personal checks over the Internet, police said.

The Lucases used temporary account numbers on the applications to have the checks made, court documents state.

During a police search of the Lucases' home, police alleged they found evidence that the couple was making money from items purchased with the bad checks. More than $2,500 in cash was found along with an eBay account that showed they were selling gift cards. Police accused the couple of buying the gift cards with bad checks and selling them online, documents state.

According to the charges filed in Washington County, Jeremiah Lucas wrote 21 checks to Kmart totaling nearly $1,800. Donna Lucas wrote about $500 in bad checks to the Hagerstown business.

She has appeared in District Court at least 10 times since 2001 on similar charges in Washington County under the name Donna Hess, according to court records.

The Lucases and Gonzalez were arraigned Friday before Magisterial District Judge Gary Carter and jailed in Franklin County Prison, police said. Donna Lucas and Gonzalez were released over the weekend, a prison official said.

Staff writer Erin Cunningham contributed to this story.

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