Reading newspaper delivery man charged with stealing over $200,000 in counterfeit checks

A 22-year-old Reading resident and former newspaper delivery man has been charged with stealing more than $200,000 from his customers through counterfeit checks, the Middlesex district attorney’s office said.

Ikponmwosa Ogiugo, who worked as a newspaper deliverer in Woburn last year, was arraigned Tuesday in Woburn District Court on multiple charges including 12 counts of identity fraud and 23 counts of forgery, the office of District Attorney Gerard T. Leone Jr. said in a statement.

Complaints from some of Ogiugo’s customers in Woburn last year led to an investigation by authorities in December of 2012 tracking evidence that reached across state lines and out of the country. Woburn and Reading police, as well State Police, joined in the investigation, the statement said.

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Investigators said Ogiugo would often receive tips for his services in the form of checks and then allegedly make new computer-generated blank checks using customers’ personal banking information.

The counterfeit checks were then sent out of state and deposited into strangers’ bank accounts where investigators believe the unsuspecting individuals were persuaded by Ogiugo to forward the money to a bank in India.

A number for Ogiugo was not in service Tuesday night and the name of his lawyer could not immediately be determined.

“These are very concerning allegations, where a person used his position of trust with long-term newspaper delivery customers, many of them elderly, to gain access to their personal information and then manipulated that information to gain a monetary benefit for himself,” Leone said.

The district attorney’s office did not specify what newspaper Ogiugo delivered.

Ogiugo allegedly earned more when victims closed their accounts after learning unauthorized checks were being used from their accounts, Leone’s office said. Unaware of the suspect’s involvement, several victims re-issued a substitute gratuity check to Ogiugo.

A judge ordered Ogiugo to be held on $5,000 cash bail with condition that he surrender his passport out of fear he might flee to his native land of Nigeria, according to the statement.

Ogiugo is due in Woburn District Court on April 10 for a pre-trial conference.