Shawn Pelley in a photo taken this year.
By John R. Ellement, Globe Staff
Just 285 days after being freed from a federal prison, a career con man today is back behind bars charged with allegedly using counterfeit checks to steal thousands of dollars from a Catholic church in Pennsylvania.
Shawn R. Pelley, who once made a living by stealing the identities of lawyers from around the country, was ordered held on $25,000 cash bail after pleading not guilty in Boston Municipal Court to fraud, larceny by scheme, and possession of counterfeit checks.
The 33-year-old Pelley was released from a federal prison in Pennsylvania Sept. 19, records show. With seed money provided by a Catholic volunteer he befriended in prison, Pelley was supposed to open a consulting firm that would focus on developing re-entry programs for prisoners. Instead, however, Pelley allegedly stole tens of thousands of dollars from the volunteer, and then wrote counterfeit checks on the volunteer's church.
"While he was in jail, he was able to talk the preacher into a scam,'' Boston Police Detective Steven Blair, who once again finds himself investigating Pelley's activities, said today. "He is as smooth as they come when you talk to him.''
According to Blair and a Boston police report filed in court, Pelley opened a bank account with TD Banknorth in the name of the re-entry company, using funds provided by the volunteer. Pelley also allegedly created checks drawn on the accounts of Saint Bernard's church in Bradford, Pa., and was allegedly able to steal $48,000 before the scheme was discovered and stopped, according to the report.
Pelley was arrested by Boston police and US marshals on Tuesday in Boston. In addition to the state charges, Pelley was being sought for violating the terms of his federal probation imposed in 2003 when he pleaded guilty to wire fraud and was sentenced to five years imprisonment. He was also ordered to repay Fidelity Investments $96,500.
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