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Three charged in bail bond agency scheme

July 25, 2006|From Staff reports

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Three Martinsburg residents were jailed Monday evening for allegedly operating a fake bail bonding agency to extract thousands of dollars from an elderly couple, magistrate court records and police said.

Wayne Antonio Owens-bey Sr., 32, and Christina Michelle Rapp, 27, both of 114 N. Maple Ave., Martinsburg, and Darrin Lester, 39, of 900 Wilson St., each were charged with obtaining money by use of fraudulent schemes by Martinsburg Police Department Sgt. S.L. Armel, Berkeley County Magistrate Court records show.

A $100,000 bond was set for each case in arraignment hearings held Monday by Magistrate Sandra L. Miller.

Arrest warrants for five other suspects in the case already have been filed as part of an ongoing investigation, police said Monday.

A complaint filed by Armel in Magistrate Court alleges that Lester learned in November 2005 the victims had significant sums of money in several bank accounts in Martinsburg and developed a plan to establish Valley Bonding Inc.

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Police allege Lester, acting as the business manager of the agency, befriended one of the victims and convinced him the business was legitimate and then used him to get to the other victim's money and set up a joint bank account.

Owens-bey acted as the bonding agent and Rapp was introduced as the agency's attorney, police said. Rapp is believed to be Owens-bey's girlfriend.

"Lester would utilize known drug users ... with valid identifications, to go to the victim's residence to pick up checks," Armel said in his complaint.

"Lester would ... tell him he needed expense money and then send one of the other suspects to the residence to get the check and take it to the bank to cash it," the complaint states.

Both Lester and Owens-bey also used other "players" in the scheme to pick up checks and cash them and then use the money to purchase crack cocaine, handguns, vehicles and other items, police said.

To continue the scam, Lester issued fake receipts and paperwork, police said. Police believe the victims were defrauded of at least $36,680 between May and July 6, 2006, when police intervened.

Police said they searched 114 N. Maple Ave. in Martinsburg at 4:11 p.m. Monday as part of an investigation into the scam. Owens-bey and Rapp were arrested at their home. Lester was detained while at Martinsburg Municipal Court, police said.

- Staff writers Matthew Umstead and Karen Hanna contributed to this story.

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