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December 02, 2015

Owner of Philly check cashing store charged in $600k scam

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06252015_Gavel Brian Turner/Wikimedia Commons


United States Attorney Zane David Memeger announced the indictment of Cottman Check Cashing, LP, located in Philadelphia, and Steven Kessler, 50, of Cherry Hill, New Jersey, one of Cottman’s owners, who has been charged with eight counts of aiding and abetting aggravated structuring of financial transactions.  

Kessler was also charged with conspiring to structure financial transactions, the attorney said in a release. 

According to the indictment, between 2009 and 2011, Kessler conspired with a sports bookmaker, Jerold Cohen, who has been charged as well, to help the bookmaker cash at least 76 checks from one of his bettors, totaling approximately $670,000, without triggering a report that would have to be provided to the U.S. government.  

Kessler allegedly helped Cohen cash those checks at Cottman Check Cashing, the release says. 

According to the indictment, Cohen obtained the checks from a single bettor to settle the bettor’s losses and allegedly knew that a report would have to be filed with the government if he cashed any check over $10,000.  

However, the release claims that in order to conceal the nature of his business and the total amount of his income, Cohen allegedly directed the bettor to write the checks in amounts just under $10,000.  

According to Memeger's office, Cohen then took those checks to Cottman Check Cashing to be cashed.  

Also, Memeger alleges that Cohen knew Kessler would help him by cashing the checks so as to avoid triggering a report that must be filed and, Kessler’s alleged assistance included cashing the checks himself, failing to keep business records of most of the transactions, and making Cottman Check Cashing available to perform the money laundering.  

The indictment charges that the structured transactions were part of a pattern of illegal activity involving transactions of more than $100,000 in a 12-month period, notes Wednesday's release. 

If convicted, Kessler faces up to 85 years in prison, three years of supervised release, a fine, a $900 special assessment, and criminal forfeiture of up to $670,175, said Memeger's office. 

And, as a business, Cottman Check Cashing faces a fine, an $800 special assessment, and criminal forfeiture of up to $670,175 as well, Memeger's information notes.