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Police: Harvard women tied to Nigerian check-processing scam

Two Harvard women were involved in a large-scale international check-processing scam, according to the Warsaw, Ind.-based Kosciusko County Sheriff’s Office.

Desiree Starlette Blackburn, 20, and Barbara Ickes, 39, have been charged with felony counts of corrupt business influence and control, as well as attempted theft. Ickes also was charged with felony forgery.

An investigation began after a Warsaw, Ind., man told sheriff’s detectives he was being scammed, according to a Kosciusko County Sheriff’s Office news release. Officers later determined the fraudulent check was part of a Nigerian check scam.

The Nigerian check scam often originates with a response to a Craigslist advertisement. The responder sends a phony check for more than the item is worth with instructions to distribute the remaining amount to other locations.

The fraudulent check then was tracked back to a residence in Harvard, where Ickes was believed to reside, the release states. Detectives were able to track the check through a fake transaction arranged with the help of the victim.

Members of the Harvard Police Department later found elaborate check-printing equipment, which used fake banking institutions, in the home, authorities said. Officers also found a list of several other potential victims from throughout the country.

Ickes later implicated Blackburn in the scam, which began in October 2012, when the two began forwarding money to a Nigerian location, the release states.

The Indiana State Police Cyber Crimes Unit and sheriff’s office are analyzing the equipment.

Information also has been shared with the U.S. Secret Service to determine whether federal authorities can continue the investigation further.

The women are being held at the Kosciusko County Jail on $20,000 bonds.

Kosciusko County is located more than 180 miles southeast of McHenry County.

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