Youths Unwittingly Take Part in Bank Con : Plot: Valley students helped suspects deposit forged checks and withdraw funds, police say. Families must now pay restitution.


A group of teen-agers are the victims of an elaborate scheme that they helped carry out by allowing thousands of dollars in forged checks to be deposited in their savings accounts, police said Wednesday.

The teen-agers and their parents must now repay--in some cases from the teen-agers’ college savings--$61,000 in stolen funds, police said.

Los Angeles police are searching for four suspected confidence tricksters, including two men who they believe originated the plot to steal money from banks by exploiting the youths.


The two other suspects, Jabari McDavid and Trenell Floyd, both 19, are wanted on suspicion of persuading seven past and present students from four San Fernando Valley high schools to hand over their checking and savings account numbers, along with automated teller machine cards and personal identification numbers, Detective P.J. Green said.

The information was then used to deposit hundreds of bad checks into the students’ accounts, usually through ATMs or night drop boxes, Green said. Once the checks were credited to the account--but before they could be rejected by the bank they were drawn upon--the unwitting students withdrew the money and handed it over to McDavid and Floyd, who paid the youths $50 to $100 each for their services, Green said.

McDavid and Floyd persuaded the youths that they were serving as innocent middlemen to cash checks for the pair because they had no bank account, and would not get in trouble for handing over the cash, said Detective Tim Gipson.

McDavid and Floyd apparently sought out youths who had their own bank accounts--usually opened with the help of their parents for savings purposes--by talking to teen-agers at high school basketball games, parks and other youth gatherings, Gipson said.

Sometimes the withdrawals were made by other people posing as the students, or by using the ATM cards and PIN numbers, Green said.

“It was a well-thought-out and elaborate scheme that these kids were basically duped into by friends, the very people they trust,” Green said. “They didn’t realize that at some point in time hard questions were going to be asked and that they were going to have to face the music.”


Typically, the students would withdraw the money from their accounts before bank officials had time to detect that the checks had been stolen, forged or written on closed accounts.

But bank officials nabbed two of the naive youths when they showed up to withdraw money several days after depositing the bad checks, Green said. A 16-year-old Granada Hills High School student and a 17-year-old Chatsworth High School student were arrested inside the banks and later prosecuted in juvenile court, where they were placed on probation and ordered to make restitution.

Other students were discovered after bank officials froze their accounts, some of which contained thousands of dollars in college savings that will now be used to make restitution, Green said.

The scam apparently involved eight banks and was carried out between May and November of last year.

The case began to unfold last June when a student, who said he was a football player at Taft High School, confessed to police after a credit union froze an $8,000 savings account that he held with his mother, Green said. The youth told police that he had been approached by McDavid and Floyd, a former Taft student.