TRENTON – Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman announced that a Hudson County man pleaded guilty today to using counterfeit checks printed with stolen account information, as well as a stolen credit card number, to purchase more than $60,000 in retail items that he then resold.
Mark A. Woodhouse, 51, of Jersey City, N.J., pleaded guilty to a charge of third-degree theft by deception before Superior Court Judge Lisa Rose in Hudson County. Under the plea agreement, the state will recommend that Woodhouse be sentenced to three years in state prison. He must pay restitution of $60,493. Deputy Attorneys General Victor R. Salgado and Mallory Shanahan prosecuted Woodhouse and took the guilty plea for the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau. The charge resulted from an investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice. Judge Rose scheduled sentencing for Woodhouse for July 11.
In pleading guilty, Woodhouse admitted he used counterfeit checks to make approximately $60,000 in retail purchases across New Jersey. The state began its investigation after the State Department of Children and Families was alerted by its bank that a counterfeit check bearing the routing, account and check numbers of a legitimate check issued by the department was used to purchase a tablet computer at a Staples store. By diligently pursuing leads related to that check and the purchase, investigators identified numerous fraudulent transactions linked to Woodhouse.
The investigation determined that Woodhouse obtained counterfeit checks from other individuals that bore account and routing numbers stolen from legitimate checking accounts. He enlisted others as “runners” to make purchases with the fake checks by posing as account holders. Counterfeit checks – and, in one instance, a stolen credit card number – were used to make 23 purchases for Woodhouse totaling more than $60,000. The purchases included approximately $49,000 in construction materials, more than $8,000 in electronic devices, and more than $3,000 in automotive parts. Woodhouse resold the stolen goods to contractors and other purchasers.
“Identity theft and financial fraud perpetrated by con artists like Woodhouse cost banks, credit card companies, retailers and private citizens many millions of dollars every year,” said Acting Attorney General Hoffman. “We put an end to Woodhouse’s expensive crime spree, and we will continue to ensure that these cases are aggressively investigated and prosecuted.”
“Our investigation into this counterfeit check scheme is ongoing, and we anticipate that we will be filing charges against additional suspects,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “These crimes pose a threat to businesses and individuals alike, and we will spare no effort to bring those responsible to justice.”\
Woodhouse was arrested in Jersey City on Oct. 29, 2013 by the Division of Criminal Justice and the Jersey City Police Department in a sting operation in which he sold a boiler for $960 to another man. The boiler had been purchased for $1,918 at a Home Depot in Secaucus using a stolen credit card number.
The investigation was conducted by Detective Garrett Brown, Civil Investigator Joseph Salvatore and Deputy Attorneys General Salgado and Shanahan of Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau, with assistance from Detective Thomas Page. Acting Attorney General Hoffman also thanked the Jersey City Police Department for their assistance.
Acting Attorney General Hoffman and Director Honig noted that the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau has established a toll-free tip line 1-866-TIPS-4CJ for the public to report corruption, financial crime and other illegal activities. Additionally, the public can log on to the Division of Criminal Justice Web page at www.njdcj.org to report suspected wrongdoing. All information received through the tip line or webpage will remain confidential.