Prosecutors said a newspaper delivery man used his customers' identities to write counterfeit checks and steal more than $200,000.
22-year-old Ikponmwosa Ogiugo, who lives in Reading, pleaded not guilty to 12 counts of identity theft, 23 charges of forgery, and larceny in Woburn District Court.
The Middlesex District Attorney's office claimed that Ogiugo allegedly obtained customers' bank account information from checks they sent him as tips. He used the data to create fakes, which were sent to other people around the U.S. - many of whom didn't know about the scheme - who then wired the money to an account in India.
"In several instances, when victims learned that unauthorized checks were being submitted against their account, they would close the existing account and open a new account," prosecutors said in a statement. "Unaware of the defendant's alleged involvement at that time, they would then issue a substitute gratuity check to the defendant since the old account had been closed. In this way, the defendant was in a position to create, and did create, more and more new counterfeit checks."
"These are very concerning allegations, where a person used his position of trust with long-term newspaper delivery customers, many of them elderly, to gain access to their personal information and then manipulated that information to gain a monetary benefit for himself," District Attorney Gerry Leone said.
A judge set bail at $5,000, and ordered Ogiugo to surrender his passport, preventing him from returning to his native Nigeria to avoid prosecution. If released on bail, Ogiugo has to wear a monitoring bracelet. He is due back in court April 10.
People with information about the case, including possible victims, should call State Police or the Woburn Police Department.
Follow Metro Boston on Twitter: @MetroBos