Back to prison for ex-con who wrote a how-to crime book

Posted: February 12, 2014

PHILADELPHIA While serving 12 years in state prison for armed robbery and assault, Phillip Eric Weems renounced his violent past and wrote a book detailing the more enlightened path he planned to pursue upon his release.

"White-collar crime is one of the most sophisticated rackets of illegal activity today," he said in his jailhouse manuscript. "Unlimited amounts of money can be made virtually overnight, and the parties involved usually face minimal and/or no consequences at all."

Weems was right about one thing. Within a year of his release, he had forged more than $1.2 million worth of fraudulent checks and recruited more than 70 people to help cash them.

But he learned Monday that he had sorely misjudged the lack of consequences.

Saying "this young man cannot be rehabilitated," U.S. District Judge Juan R. Sanchez sentenced him to about 10 years in prison on fraud and firearms charges. "No sooner will he come out of prison than he will commit another crime," Sanchez added.

Though it has an unwieldy title - Crime Pays, Vol. 1: Instructional Manual on How to Successfully Implement One of the Most Advanced Adult Hotline Operations - Weems' book laid out plans for "a multimillion-dollar empire that investigators and law enforcement have been unable to infiltrate."

He cited his expertise - "the highest degree in criminology through utilizing prison time to his advantage" - and previewed a planned second volume that would lay out the framework for the crimes that would send him back behind bars.

Say what one will about the wisdom of detailing a criminal plot in a manuscript easily followed by the FBI, Weems, 36, of Philadelphia, was industrious in putting the plan into action.

"This was a massive undertaking to do in such a short period of time," Assistant U.S. Attorney Ashley Lunkenheimer said Monday in court.

In addition to his recruitment efforts, Weems set up fraudulent franchises of national brands such as McDonald's, Dunkin' Donuts, and Taco Bell through the Pennsylvania secretary of state.

He created fake payroll records to back up their checks and helped his check-cashers obtain phony addresses for their state-issued IDs.

He opened shell corporate accounts at local banks and put some money in them, should any check-cashing business double-check that his businesses could cover the money his coconspirators sought to withdraw.

In all, prosecutors said, Weems' own cut totaled nearly $184,000.

Before Sanchez on Monday, Weems dropped the bravado displayed in his manuscript and offered humble apologies.

"Wrong is wrong. I understand that now," he said. "Even though I messed up, I'm still a good man."

But his newfound penitence lasted about as long as it took the judge to leave the courtroom. Within minutes, Weems had turned to Lunkenheimer and began needling her for requesting a higher sentence.

"It's OK," he said upon realizing such tactics were getting him nowhere. "I'll just spend the time [in prison] contemplating and thinking and relaxing."

Lunkenheimer quipped back: "Or you could write another book."



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