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Four charged in fake check scheme
MONROE - A man with a history of fraud convictions faces new charges that he and three co-conspirators defrauded area businesses out of nearly $10,000 using fake payroll checks created at his Monroe address.

James J. Ellis Jr., 40, is charged in Green County Circuit Court with conspiracy to commit theft by false representation, plus 20 counts of forgery. Each of the 21 Class H felony charges carries a maximum sentence of six years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

His initial appearance is May 7.

Ellis has convictions of forgery and writing bad checks going back 20 years in Stephenson County, according to Illinois court records. He was arrested in November for several new felony cases there, also involving forgery and bad checks. Those cases are still pending.

The last known address for Ellis is a rental commercial property in Monroe at 1005 30th St. The property owner successfully evicted him in October for failing to pay the utilities and security deposit as agreed in a five-year lease Ellis signed in May.

It's not clear that Ellis ever conducted legitimate business at this address, but the names of two businesses using this address appeared last fall on fake payroll checks Ellis and others cashed, according to court records.

Neither of the businesses, "Five and Dime Thrift Store" and "Jee Telemarketing," show up in a state database of registered corporations, LLCs and other entities.

According to the criminal complaint, Ellis and three others used fake payroll checks from this address between Aug. 25 and Dec. 1 to pay for cash and merchandise at area businesses, including Papa Don's Horseshoe Saloon, Roll-A-Smoke and The Storage Sheds in Monroe, Gempeler's Supermarket in Monticello and the Piggly Wiggly in Brodhead.

When a detective with the Monroe Police Department stopped by 1005 30th St. in October to investigate, he found the front door ajar and "observed in plain view" a computer printer with check-printing paper the same color as the fraudulent checks.

In all, police recovered more than two dozen fake checks that together had defrauded area businesses out of $9,762.66, according to the detective's investigation. In each case, the checks used real routing numbers but fraudulent account numbers and were returned marked "unable to locate account."

Ellis' co-defendants are Jamie Anna Beth Baxter, 34, Monroe; Emily Helen Meier, 28, Orangeville; and Kayla Karine Niedermeier, 19, Juda. Each faces a Class H felony charge of conspiracy to commit theft by false representation. Baxter and Niedermeier also face one felony forgery count each, while Meier faces five. Their initial appearances are May 7.