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Ogdensburg police probe possible accomplice in nursing home forgery

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OGDENSBURG — Police believe a city man arrested Thursday on nine counts of felony second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument and felony third-degree grand larceny may have had help.

Jesse G. Austin, 34, of 212 Montgomery St., is accused of stealing and cashing nine checks totaling $17,460 from the bank account of Edward E. Papp, 82, a resident of St. Joseph’s Home, 950 Linden St.

Detective Sgt. Robert H. Wescott said Friday that a current or former employee of the nursing home is suspected of being Mr. Austin’s cohort in the crime.

“We’re focusing on one employee,” he said.

That person has not yet been arrested, and the case is still under investigation, Mr. Wescott said.

Mr. Austin, who police said has never worked for St. Joseph’s Home, is accused of stealing the St. Lawrence Federal Credit Union checks from Mr. Papp, forging his signature on them and cashing them at the bank’s Ogdensburg and Canton offices between December and April.

The amounts were: $4,800, $1,700, $3,650, $3,400, $920, $500, $650, $920 and $920.

Police were notified April 11 by the nursing home when Mr. Papp’s checks began to bounce.

“When the account went negative, the bank called the nursing home,” Mr. Wescott said.

St. Joseph’s Administrator Colleen E. Steele declined to say whether the nursing home had any policy regarding the safekeeping of its residents’ personal property.

“At this point, I have no comment,” she said.

Mr. Austin was sent to the St. Lawrence County jail, Canton, on $3,000 bail or $6,000 bond.

He is due for a preliminary hearing in City Court on Tuesday.

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