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NYC Trio Busted In Check Scheme After Off-Duty Mahwah Police Stop

(from left): Dane Duncan, Christian Riera, Darren Thomas
(from left): Dane Duncan, Christian Riera, Darren Thomas Photo Credit: MUGSHOTS: Courtesy MAHWAH PD

MAHWAH, N.J. – A New York City trio busted by an off-duty Mahwah police officer had hundreds of checks in other people’s names, along with printing devices and nearly $6,000 in cash, authorities said.

Off-duty Officer Mahwah Police Officer David Vega followed an erratically-driven car from northbound Route 287 to southbound Route 17, where it pulled into the Bolla Market lot around 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Police Chief James N. Batelli said.

Vega called for backup and identified himself to the driver.

A subsequent search turned up marijuana and drug paraphernalia, as well as 170 blank checks, several filled-out checks in other people’s names, IDs with other people’s names, and $1,180 in cash.

Officers arrested Dane Duncan, 20, of Brooklyn, and Christian Riera, 29, of Queens – who Batelli said “attempted to destroy evidence by tearing up checks and throwing them in the gas station garbage.”

Officers and detectives then went to the Courtyard Marriot on southbound Route 17, where the pair was staying with an accused accomplice, 21-year-old Darren Thomas of Brooklyn, the chief said.

Thomas consented to a search of the room, which turned up “electronic devices and a printer used to manufacture fraudulent checks,” as well as $4,800 in cash, Batelli said.

Detective Michael Grassi determined that the suspects “generate bogus checks, deposit them into a banking institution and then, using an ATM card, withdraw the available balance before the checks can be identified as fraudulent,” the chief said.

Duncan, Riera and Thomas were charged with various ID theft and forgery offenses. Duncan and Riera also were charged with possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia.

Riera also was charged with hindering arrest through destruction of evidence.

All were ordered held in the Bergen County Jail pending a detention hearing.

The chief reminded citizens to routinely check credit and ATM cards for potential fraud – and to report any immediately to their financial or banking institution.

He also noted that his detectives were still trying to identify all of the victims, businesses and banks that were defrauded.

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