ALBANY, Ga. — The first of three co-defendants in what has been billed as the Albany area’s largest check fraud scheme against the U.S. government has been released on a $20,000 bond awaiting trial following a hearing Thursday.
As first reported at albanyherald.com, Trevayne “Tre” D. Jones was arrested by the U.S. Secret Service and the U.S. Marshal’s Service Wednesday and brought for his initial court appearance. Thursday morning, U.S. Magistrate Thomas Langstaff heard arguments and testimony from the U.S. Attorney’s Office and Jones’ defense counsel as to why he should or shouldn’t be remanded into custody pending his trial.
After hearing the evidence that was presented, Langstaff ruled that, while Jones’ previous felony conviction and subsequent arrests in state and Superior Court were disconcerting, the government failed to meet the two-prong test that Jones was both a serious risk to flee and was a danger to the community.
While his grand jury indictment remains under seal by the court, Jones is alleged to be a part of a three-man conspiracy in which 342 checks from the U.S. Treasury were stolen while en route to their various payees in the metro Atlanta area.
Also charged are Dontreal M. Jenkins of Albany and Jamal Williams of Atlanta. Jenkins surrendered to federal authorities Thursday morning and appeared before Langstaff for his initial appearance and arraignment Thursday afternoon.
The three made off with more than $700,000 in federal tax refunds meant for taxpayers in Atlanta, Special Agent Jim Maddox of the U.S. Secret Service testified Thursday.
Jones and Jenkins are alleged to have cashed the checks at the BP Convenience Store on North Slappey Boulevard, where Jones was known to spend hours each day playing Keno, sometimes spending more than $1,000 on the Georgia Lottery game, Maddox testified.
Maddox also told the court that between January and May 2011, the two cashed the 342 checks at the store and, at some point, Jones cashed as many as 36 in one day using the guise that he was helping his sister, whom he allegedly told the store owner had a tax preparation business in Atlanta and needed the checks cashed on behalf of her indigent clients.
Maddox further testified that Jones was linked to the checks by way of his ID, which was photocopied with some of the checks, and because the store owner wrote his and Jenkins’ nicknames on the checks.
Testifying on behalf of the defendant Thursday was Dartuvino Wester, who described his relationship to Jones as almost brotherly in nature. The two met while working together at the Equity Group in 1995, he said.
Wester said that he had never known Jones to carry a weapon and that he didn’t believe the recently married man to be a flight risk. He also said, however, that he wasn’t aware of Jones’ previous felony drug conviction, nor did he know of any subsequent arrests on misdemeanor counts.
The alleged scheme came to light because of two seperate events.
The first happened on May 12 when Williams was stopped by sheriff’s deputies in Crisp County on I-75. After searching Williams’ Mercedes Benz 500 Series, deputies found a small amount of marijuana and some Treasury checks hidden into an X-Box case.
Maddox said the Secret Service later analyzed Williams’ iPhone and discovered a series of text messages between Williams and Jenkins listing the payees, addresses and amounts of some of the stolen checks.
Around the same time, the owner of the store went to police after the checks started coming back from the bank as stolen, at which time Jones was interviewed by investigators with the Dougherty County Sheriff’s Office, Maddox said.