01/28/05 — Defendant used jail account number, homemade checks in unique scam

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Defendant used jail account number, homemade checks in unique scam

By Jack Stephens
Published in News on January 28, 2005 2:01 PM

A man described as a career con artist has been sentenced to at least 29 years in prison for making counterfeit checks on the Johnston County Jail's bank account, using them to buy cars and then passing them to post his bond to get out of jail.

Joseph Lee Ford, 37, of Lincoln Drive in Goldsboro was sentenced in Wayne County Superior Court to three consecutive terms that totaled 348 to 447 months.

After a parade of 17 prosecution witnesses, a jury needed about 20 minutes to return guilty verdicts on two counts of obtaining property by false pretense and one count each of forgery and uttering.

Ford's sentence was lengthened significantly because he also stipulated that he was a two-time habitual felon.

Ford also was ordered by Judge Paul L. Jones of Kinston to repay $1,015.48 to Frema Motors and $710 to Universal Bail Bonding of Goldsboro and to pay $2,080 to his court-appointed lawyer, Bruce Hulse of Goldsboro.

Ford appealed.

Goldsboro Police Investigator Mike Moore said authorities in Wilson, Johnston and Wake counties also have charged Ford with similar offenses. He has not been tried on those cases. He has been accused of writing $29,517 in counterfeit checks. Some were used to pay the phone bills of relatives.

Ford's "entire history has been cases of forgery, uttering, false pretense, worthless checks, credit card fraud, larceny and a breaking and entering," said Assistant District Attorney Jan Kroboth, who prosecuted the case.

Moore said the Wayne County case started when Ford was an inmate in the Johnston County Jail in Smithfield on worthless check charges and was transferred to Neuse Correctional Institute in Goldsboro.

"If an inmate had money left in the inmate trust account, the jail would write him a check," Moore said. "He took the account numbers from the check and started printing his own checks on a computer."

Ford bought a car from Frema Motors in Goldsboro and another in Johnston County with counterfeit checks. When he was arrested in Goldsboro, Moore said, Ford posted his share of the bond with a counterfeit check to a bail bondsman. He also used a counterfeit check to post bond in Wilson.

"He's a career scammer," Moore said. "He had been sentenced to 20 years in prison in the late 1980s or early 1990s for doing the same thing."

Ford served about six years of that sentence and was released under the old "fair-sentencing" guidelines.

"He's a career con man," Moore said of the defendant.

The car case was investigated by Goldsboro Police Officer Pat Carcirieri, and Moore investigated the bond case. Mrs. Kroboth noted that after the jury rendered its verdict, the 12 members remained to see Ford sentenced.

Ford's wife, Denise Ford, 25, of Lincoln Drive, also pleaded guilty to two felony counts of forgery of different Johnston County Jail checks. She was sentenced to 90 days in prison in addition to a six- to eight-month suspended term.

Mrs. Ford also was placed on supervised probation for 36 months, fined $100 and court costs, and ordered to repay $900 to the Lighthouse Food Mart of Goldsboro and to pay $227.50 to her court-appointed lawyer, James Copeland of Goldsboro.