NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - Middlesex County Prosecutor Andrew C. Carey announced today that 16 people have been arrested and charged with taking part in a scheme to pass bad checks in four counties and collect more than $100,000 from local banks and check-cashing businesses.

The defendants were arrested and charged following an investigation that began August 11, when authorities at a Highland Park bank said five people were arrested for attempting to cash bogus payroll checks.

The arrests of the five led to a wider investigation and subsequent arrests of eleven others who were also charged with passing bad checks at banks and check cashing businesses in Middlesex, Somerset, Union and Monmouth counties.

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Bail ranged from $10,000 to $200,000 for the defendants, who were charged with various roles in the scheme that took place between June 30 and Sept 29.

Detective Ted Pardo of the Highland Park Police Department and Detective Ryan Tighe of the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office said three of the defendants obtained and prepared bogus pay checks, which were distributed to others who cashed them at the banks and check-cashing businesses.

Ralph Jean-Gilles, 33 and Marcanthony Dorcent, 21, both of Roselle, and Machanley Jules, 28 of Rahway were each charged with promoting organized street crime, a first degree offense, and second degree counts of conspiracy to write and distribute bad checks. Bail was set at $200,000 for Jean-Gilles and $100,000 each for Dorcent and Jules.

Shiraan Singleton, 33 of Roselle, was charged with a second degree count of conspiracy to write and pass bad checks and a third degree count of promoting prostitution in an incident unrelated to the check scheme. Singleton’s bail was set at $60,000.

Defendants charged with third degree counts of passing bad checks and theft by deception were James Wellington Jr., 48 of Mahwah; Marcel Rose Jr., 41 of  Linden; Cheyenne Little, 23 of Elizabeth; Natasha Colon, 25 of Roselle; Kamila Price, 21, of Belleville, Michigan; Sonnel Santiago, 38, Maria Cancel-Martinez, 27, Diana Rodriguez, 25, and Indiana Martinez, 30, all of New Brunswick.

Derell Roberts, 31, of Elizabeth; Jahtiah Nix, 24, of Ewing; and Tristin Keck, 25, of Roselle were each charged with a fourth degree count of passing bad checks and a third degree count of theft by deception.

Defendants charged with the most serious first-degree crimes could serve between 10 and 20 years in state prison, if convicted.

The police departments of Highland Park, Linden, Metuchen, Rahway, and Roselle, as well as the Middlesex County Sheriff’s Office and the Union County Prosecutor’s Office participated in the investigation and arrests.

The investigation is continuing.  Anyone with information is asked to call Detective Tighe of the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office at (732) 745-3300, or Detective Pardo of the Highland Park Police Department at (732) 572-3800.