The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

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July 20, 2012

Suspended sentence levied for forgery

CLINTON — Latoya Coleman, 35, of Clinton, who was charged with multiple counts of forgery and theft in the third degree, was sentenced Thursday in four cases relating to cashing forged checks at various Clinton businesses.

Judge David Sivright dismissed three of the four cases against Coleman. Each of those cases carried a charge for forgery and third-degree theft.

Judge Sivright also gave Coleman a suspended sentence in the fourth case, in which she was charged with one count of forgery. 

Under the plea agreement Coleman entered into on June 7, she will be on probation for three years, and will need to pay restitution to two of the victims, for a total of $1,499, continue substance abuse counseling, abstain from use of controlled substances and submit to random drug testing. 

She also will need to cooperate with police in their investigation of the forgery scam she is believed to have been coerced into, which led to her arrest and charges.

According to court documents, around Feb. 14, Coleman cashed forged checks stating they were from “Eastern Iowa Community College District.” She cashed a check for $711.87 at Hometown Cash Advance, a check for $732.54 at Clinton Check Cashers and a check for $722.54 at Hass Food Market.

On Feb. 20, Coleman was arrested at Check into Cash after attempting to cash a $688.34 check from a company called Flexible Staffing Services, Inc.

At the time of her arrest, Coleman told officers she was extorted into cashing the checks by threats of force from an unknown male, but the arresting officer, Cpl. Jon Melvin of the Clinton Police Department, stated Coleman’s story changed throughout the course of the arrest. However, it is now believed Coleman was coerced into using the fraudulent checks.

Since her arrest, Coleman entered residential substance abuse treatment at Country Oaks and subsequently entered into treatment at Hightower Place in Clinton where she is doing well, according to a letter from Susan Wolever, program manager at Hightower Place. Her defense attorney, Mark Lawson said he had not seen someone make as much progress as Coleman in a long time.

“I hit rock bottom. I can’t afford to go to prison and lose anymore years of my kids’ lives...I’m done,” Coleman said during the sentencing.

Judge Sivright said he was glad to see the changes Coleman had made and warned her of the consequences if she does not continue.

“You need to make good choices,” Judge Sivright said. “If you can’t succeed, then you’re going back to prison.”

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