Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

December 10, 2012

10 months meted in escape

Harold Edward James had ‘limited’ pass at Transitions in Ashland

Kenneth Hart
The Independent

ASHLAND — A man convicted two years ago in federal court of masterminding a bogus payroll check scheme will spend several more months in prison for escaping from an Ashland halfway house.

U.S. District Judge David L. Bunning on Monday sentence Harold Edward James, 51, to 10 months on a charge of escape, to which James had pleaded guilty.

James was charged with escaping from the Transitions Inc. halfway house on 29th Street on May 10. He was transferred there in November of last year from the Federal Detention Center in Oakdale, La.

On May 10, James signed out of Transitions to go to the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Huntington, court records state. He was allowed to leave the facility on a “limited” pass that required him to check in periodically with the halfway house and to return there at the end of the day.

James failed to comply with the conditions of his pass and “departed the custody” of the federal Bureau of Prisons. He was subsequently arrested in Georgia on June 27.

James has been in federal custody since his arrest, and that time will be subtracted from his sentence, said his attorney, Andy Markelonis of Catlettsburg. That would means James will be released in about 4 1/2 months.

According to Markelonis, James was within “a week or two” of completing his previous sentence of 41 months when he walked away from Transitions.

James pleaded guilty in federal court in June 2010 to heading up a conspiracy to manufacture, utter and possess counterfeit payroll checks.

According to the government, James obtained bank account numbers of various local businesses from people who worked at them, including several of his co-conspirators. Using that information, he printed phony payroll written on those businesses on his computer in amounts ranging from $400 to $850.

James also employed several of his co-defendants to pose as the payees of the bogus checks and to cash them at different businesses, and others to serve as recruiters to bring check-cashers into the conspiracy.

The scheme affected businesses in Boyd and Carter counties, and in Lawrence County, Ohio, costing them roughly $65,000.

The eight others charged in the conspiracy all pleaded guilty and received sentences ranging from probation to 30 months.

KENNETH HART can be reached at khart@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2654.