GREENEVILLE, Tenn. — Five people are accused in a counterfeit check ring involving more than $4,200 worth of bogus checks on a Washington County Sheriff's Office bank account.
Named in an indictment filed in U.S. District Court in Greeneville earlier this month are alleged ringleader Eric Wayne Cureton, who just completed a state prison term for forgery, and alleged coconspirators James Paul Shrewsbury and Felicia Nicole Shrewsbury, who are husband and wife; Harold Douglas Nichols; and Angela Clare Eagan.
According to the indictment prepared by Assistant U.S. Attorney Neil Smith and a criminal complaint filed by U.S. Secret Service agent Douglas M. Allen, the group first came under suspicion in early February when the Johnson City Police Department was alerted that James Shrewsbury had cashed a bogus check drawn on the Washington County Sheriff's Office's inmate funds account at a check- cashing business in Johnson City.
"The account is used to issue checks to inmates being released or transferred from the Washington County Detention Center for whatever funds remain in the individual inmate's jail account," Allen wrote.
On Feb. 22, authorities got a break when Jonette M. Steptoe tried to pass an $800 fake WCSO check at the same check-cashing business, according to the complaint. Steptoe agreed to cooperate with authorities and said in an interview that she received the check "from a guy named Eric," Allen wrote.
"Steptoe further identified Eric W. Cureton from a local news publication known as 'Busted,' which contains booking photos from area jails," Allen wrote.
Steptoe ultimately agreed to be outfitted with a body camera during a visit to Cureton's apartment to pick up four more checks, Allen wrote.
"Video obtained on Steptoe's body camera revealed that Cureton was using a laptop computer and was in possession of counterfeit WCSO checks," the complaint stated.
Because of her cooperation, Steptoe was not charged federally.
According to the complaint, detectives determined that Nichols had rented the laptop for Cureton from a Greeneville electronics store. Cureton crafted the counterfeit checks at issue and used the Shrewsburys and Eagan to cash them at businesses, including area Walmart stores and an IGA grocery store, court records allege. According to the indictment, eight checks totaling $4,278 were cashed in a 12-day period.
All five allegedly shared in the proceeds. Each is being detained pending trial. A trial date was not immediately available Friday.