Tara Stokes, 48, of Flushing, N.Y., and Lawrence T. Humphrey, 48, of Brooklyn, N.Y., were indicted by a state grand jury on Friday, Dec. 9, on second-degree charges of conspiracy, three counts of theft by deception, and three counts of passing bad checks. The charges are the result of an investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Computer Crimes Bureau.
It is alleged that Stokes and Humphrey presented checks drawn on a closed bank account to purchase three homes in New Jersey. In each case, Tara Stokes used the name “Tara Humphrey.” Two of the properties were located in Gloucester County – in Greenwich Township and Monroe Township – and one was located in Winslow Township, Camden County. The closed bank account was in the name of a fictitious law firm, Law Offices of Tara Humphrey. Tara Stokes is not a lawyer.
The defendants allegedly wrote multiple bad checks for two of the properties, writing new checks when the first checks bounced. Three bad checks for $240,000 were written for the Monroe property, all from the account of the fictitious law firm. Bad checks for $296,639 and $299,139 were issued for the Greenwich property, with the second check being drawn on a different bank account, which was open but did not have sufficient funds. A bad check for $305,684 drawn on the law firm account was written for the Winslow property. The defendants also wrote bad checks for $2,500 and $10,000 from that account to pay deposits on the Greenwich and Winslow homes.
While titles for the three properties changed hands at the closings, in each case the fraud was quickly uncovered and the deed was not recorded. The state’s investigation began with a referral from a law firm representing the title company that handled the closing for the Monroe Township property.
Deputy Attorney General William Conlow presented the case to the state grand jury for the Division of Criminal Justice. Detective Richard Loufik was the lead detective for the Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Computer Crimes Bureau.
Second-degree charges carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a fine of up to $150,000. The indictment is merely an accusation and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
The indictment was handed up to Superior Court Judge Mary C. Jacobson in Mercer County, who assigned the case to Gloucester County, where the defendants will be ordered to appear in court at a later date for arraignment.
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