Man convicted in Comcheck scam

| 3/28/2002

According to published reports, a Deadwood court has convicted a couple accused of perpetrating a multi-county and multi-state bogus-check scheme in Lawrence County, SD. Charges against James A. Murphy included four counts of forgery, two counts of grand theft by obtaining property without paying, one count of petty theft and one count of theft by possession.

He was acquitted of one count of forgery and two theft charges. Dana Livingston-Murphy pleaded guilty to one count of grand theft and will be sentenced Friday, March 29. Murphy, whose address is undetermined, defrauded various local businesses using the Comcheck system, the Rapid City Journal reported. A representative of Comdata Inc. testified the account and authorization numbers placed on the Comchecks were fictitious and that the documents were worthless.

"Comchecks are used almost exclusively in the trucking industry," State Attorney John Fitzgerald said. "They are like counter checks and the blank documents are available at truckstops."

The scam began last October when Murphy and his then-fiancée came to Lawrence County. Allegedly, Murphy told townspeople he was worth millions and that he was involved in buying and selling cars. Over two to three days, Murphy used phony checks to pay for lodging, cars, and as earnest money on a real estate deal.

According to Fitzgerald, Murphy even used a phony check to pay for his Nov. 3 license to marry co-defendant Dana Livingston-Murphy. After authorities were notified of suspicious charges on Comchecks in Lawrence County, police began tracking the couple's activities.

The Murphys were reportedly captured in possession of a motor home, a Ford Probe and a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. Those three vehicles were bought in another state with false Comchecks, Fitzgerald said. Charges against the couple are pending in other South Dakota counties and other states relating to those vehicles.

Sentencing is pending for James Murphy. Fourth Circuit Judge Warren Johnson will hear defense motions on post-trial matters Thursday, when he will set a trial on Murphy's habitual-offender status.