Two accused of using forged traveler’s checks

Two people are in custody after allegedly using forged traveler’s checks at Logan Town Centre.

Joseph Ellison, 25, of Williamsport and Brooklyn, N.Y., along with Melanie Vaz Machado, 20, of Newark, N.J., were arrested Thursday night by Logan Township police after a call from Boscov’s where Vaz Machado had made a $472.42 purchase.

When officers located the pair’s silver-colored Hyundai in the Logan Town Centre parking lot with help from Boscov’s loss prevention staff at about 7 p.m., Ellison was behind the wheel and gave police a fake name, according to Logan Township police.

When approached by officers, Ellison said he was waiting for a female friend to come out of one of the stores and asked if he was free to leave, police noted. Officers informed Ellison he was under investigation and was not free to go.

With only a New York library card as identification, Ellison told police his name was “Hakeem Inniss,” according to court records. When police found no record of a Hakeem Inniss with the birth date of Dec. 1, 1988 – Ellison’s actual birth date – he was taken from his car and handcuffed.

Vaz Machado was taken into custody after she emerged from Staples a brief time later, police said.

Police said Vaz Machado said she was at the shopping center with a friend but didn’t know the man’s name, and after she was detained by officers, she told police she “knew something was not right about the checks,” police noted in the pair’s arrest papers.

Four fraudulent American Express traveler’s checks were allegedly found in Vaz Machado’s purse, police said, and she had just bought a Microsoft Type Cover 2 for $137.79 using bogus checks. Police said 11 fraudulent checks in $100 denominations were involved in the crime.

Vaz Machado, who used a Uruguay passport as her identification, allegedly told officers that Ellison had told her the checks were bought at a discount from a friend of his who was leaving the country, but she was leary of using them. Ellison had “become somewhat forceful in his demeanor” when he persuaded her to use the checks, police noted.

Logan Township police said Friday that the Secret Service was contacted about the case. Ellison is charged with felony forgery and criminal solicitation, as well as misdemeanor counts of theft and false identification to police. He remains in Blair County Prison in lieu of $80,000 cash bail.

Vaz Machado was arraigned Friday morning by Magisterial District Judge Craig Ormsby on felony forgery and misdemeanor theft charges and was lodged in jail after failing to post $75,000 cash bail.

Both suspects are due to appear Thursday before Magisterial District Judge Steven Jackson.