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Suspended lawyer, ex-convict charged locally with bank fraud

LEONARD GRAY / L’Observateur / September 29, 1998

LAPLACE – A Baton Rouge attorney on suspension was one of two men swept up by police in a bank fraud case possibly spanning two states.

Russell A. Chaney, 42, and Benjamin M. Duvall, 42, both of 5117 Garig Ave.Apt. 13, Baton Rouge, were each charged in St. John the Baptist and St.James parishes with bank fraud.

According to St. John Parish Lt. C.J. Destor Jr., Chaney, a Tulane LawSchool graduate, and Duvall, who served time for manslaughter in North Carolina, became partners in a scheme to defraud banks.

Each would, with forged identification, open personal checking accounts under false names, then write checks to their other identities or write out checks for cash.

Destor said the frauds may have even spilled over into Mississippi, and he’s asked banks to review their records and contact him at 652-9513.

The pair were arrested Sept. 21 by Baton Rouge City Police on fugitivewarrants, according to a spokesperson. They are currently in the parishjail in LaPlace. Bond was set for Duvall at $50,000 by 40th JudicialDistrict Judge J. Sterling Snowdy. Bond was set for Chaney at $10,000 byJudge Madeline Jasmine.

St. James Bank first became aware of the problem in Aug. 13, according toDetective Hank Vicknair III. Destor was contacted by Regions Bank on Aug.24 and by Bank of LaPlace on Aug. 28 and, quickly thereafter, PostalInspector B.W. Mason, the FBI and other agencies became involved.St. James Bank quickly suspended account activity on its fraudulentaccounts and, with a “trickle-down” effect, prompted a move from the area by Chaney and Duvall.

Chaney, placed on suspension on Jan. 31, 1997 by the Louisiana BarAssociation, has a lengthy arrest record, according to Destor. Priorarrests include possession of cocaine, simple kidnapping, simple battery, simple criminal damage to property, possession of drug paraphernalia, unauthorized entry of an inhabited dwelling, distribution of Valium, felony auto theft, possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine, numerous counts of theft, and also eight counts of issuing worthless checks in February 1997 and two more counts in July 1997.

Duvall, a native of Indonesia, served more than four years for manslaughter in Raleigh, N.C. Other arrests include those for unauthorizedentry of a business, forgery, bank fraud and insurance fraud. Duvall servedtime in North Carolina from 1980 to 1984 for involuntary manslaughter, Destor said.

Chaney, during his alleged bank fraud career, used the aliases Robert Earl Cobb, Richard J. Brown, Russell O’Haney, Chaney J. Russell and RussellAllen Chaney.

Duvall used the aliases Jimmy D. Gibson, Jimmy Gibson, Martin L. Adams,David R. Hamilton, J.D. Dryer and J.D. Dry.Both men also await arraignment in St. James Parish, where bond of$75,000 each has been set by 23rd Judicial District Judge Guy Holdridge on one count each of bank fraud. Cases are also pending in Gonzales andBaton Rouge.

“They’re looking at a lot of jail time,” Destor commented.

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