A 46-year-old man was sentenced to 20 years in prison Wednesday (April 15) for possession of methamphetamines, Viagra without a prescription and marijuana, and for committing a series of elaborate credit card and check-cashing scams last summer.
A St. Tammany Parish jury had found the defendant, Eddie Matthews III, of Baton Rouge, guilty on March 31 of the two felony drug charges. Judge Scott C. Gardner found Matthews guilty of the misdemeanor marijuana possession charge on Wednesday, and Matthews also pled guilty the same day to 10 conspiracy and bank fraud charges.
Gardner sentenced Matthews to 20 years in prison for the methamphetamine possession charge. Matthews received lesser sentences on all of the other charges, but the time will run concurrently. Assistant District Attorney Nick Noriea prosecuted the case, and the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office, assisted by the U.S. Secret Service, conducted the investigation.
Matthews’ schemes began to unravel on August 30, 2014, after he attempted to use fraudulent debit cards to buy merchandise and put hundreds of dollars on gift cards at a Dollar General Store in Slidell. An astute store clerk alerted police, who began patrolling the area and located Matthews at another Dollar General in Slidell.
Officers found 15 debit/credit cards and three pre-paid cards on Matthews, who said he was taking his girlfriend shopping. When officers searched the vehicle, they located one Viagra pill with no prescription, two methamphetamine pills, and two clear baggies of marijuana. Matthews was arrested and charged.
Matthews was tied to a separate check-cashing scheme on August 15, 2014, when investigators traced the theft of five personal checks that had been stolen, altered, and cashed to a woman named Dominique Gilliam. Gilliam admitted that she had met Matthews at a New Orleans bar and that he had recruited her for the check-cashing scam because she resembled the photo on a driver’s license that had been lost at the same bar.
On four different occasions between May 12 and May 13, Matthews and Gilliam intercepted checks that had been written by others to pay bills, changed the amount and the name on the checks, and cashed them.
One victim said he had put two checks in his mailbox with bills to be paid, including one for $92.54. The man called police on May 13, when he realized that the checks had been taken out of his mailbox before the letter carrier arrived. Investigators later discovered that the name on one of the checks had been changed, the amount had been altered to $492.54, and the check had been cashed.
In another instance, a woman who had mailed a check for $1,800 to her bank on May 13 was notified by the bank that the check had been altered and cashed. A third victim had written and mailed a check for $106.92 to her cable company on May 12. But when she was notified that the company never received her check, she discovered that the name had been changed and that the check amount also had been altered to $436.92.
The fourth complaint came from a woman who noticed when she returned from vacation that a check she had written to her alarm company for $39.99 had been changed to $699.99 and that the payee had been changed, as well.
Gilliam told authorities that Matthews had dropped her off and picked her up at the banks to cash the checks and that he had promised to give her a third of the cut from the scam.