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2 charged in Chicago with depositing checks stolen from Obama headquarters

By Rosemary R. Sobol and Jennifer Delgado, Chicago Tribune –

CHICAGO — Two men were charged with depositing two checks stolen from President Barack Obama’s campaign into bank accounts they fraudulently opened.

A judge Saturday set bail at $100,000 for Jessie Adams, who allegedly instructed Willard Elam and another, unidentified, man who remains at large to open bank accounts at separate bank branches in the Chicago’s south suburbs. Adams is charged with one count of organizing a financial criminal enterprise.

Bail for Willard Elam, who is charged with continuing a financial crime enterprise, was set at $75,000.

Cook County prosecutors said Elam and the unidentified man were accompanied by Adams and pretended to be owners of companies that work with Obama’s presidential campaign.

They opened the accounts on Sept. 12 and Sept. 13 at TCF Bank branched in two grocery stores, and presented fake documents to open the accounts before depositing the checks, one for $24,857 and the other for $23,839, prosecutors said.

A comptroller with Obama’s reelection campaign caught on to the scheme when two companies complained they had not been paid. It was not known how the three men obtained the checks, prosecutors said.

Adams, 36, of Joliet, Ill., works for a general contracting company; Elam, 48, of Dolton, Ill., is a laborer, authorities said.

Police said Adams recruited Elam for the alleged crime.

The checks were stolen, apparently last week, from the Prudential Plaza building in downtown Chicago, where the Obama campaign is headquartered, police said.

The checks were made out to legitimate businesses, but the suspects deposited them in phony accounts they had set up under the names of those companies, authorities said.

Ben Finkenbinder, the Midwest press secretary for the Obama campaign, said: “Three checks we sent to vendors made it into the wrong hands, and after learning of this we notified the police. We’re pleased that they’re dealing with the issue swiftly, and don’t expect this to have any impact upon the campaign.”

An Obama campaign official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the matter, said the checks were not taken from the campaign’s offices, but rather from the building housing the headquarters.

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