Restaurant check forger headed back to Jersey

Contributed Photo/Courtesy GCSO: Gabriella Bilyou pleaded guilty to three counts of possession of a forgery device and was given probation, which she will be allowed to serve in her home state of New Jersey.

SAFFORD – A woman who was charged with multiple felonies relating to check fraud at local restaurants has been released from jail to head back to New Jersey to start probation and seek treatment for mental health issues.

Gabriella Joan Bilyou, 19, was arrested in August with Joseph Phillip Louis Columbo, 23, after using fraudulent checks to pay for food at Casa Mañana three times and once at the Main Street Cafe.

Bilyou pleaded guilty to three counts of possession of a forgery device – all Class-6 felonies – at a hearing Sept. 28 and was given a three-year probation sentence. She also agreed to pay full restitution of nearly $500 to the restaurants she defrauded. The restitution covers food the couple ate, ordered to go and bank fees for the bad checks. Bilyou was also sentenced to 61 days in jail with credit for 51 served and was released from custody Monday, Oct. 2.

Contributed Photo/Courtesy GCSO: Joseph Columbo is still being adjudicated for his fraud charges in Graham County. He also has a $300,000 warrant for credit card fraud in Idaho.

Columbo, who is still being adjudicated, was also seen on surveillance footage depositing fraudulent checks totaling $11,067.62 into the account of Thomas Reynolds at 280 W. Main St. The checks were from the same deceased woman that were used to bilk the restaurants, Patricia Burns, and the bank learned of the ruse after it had lost $975.

Thomas Reynolds, 45, was arrested and booked into the jail Aug. 31, on counts of forgery, fraudulent schemes and artifices, and theft but has yet to be formally charged by the Graham County Attorney’s Office.

Bilyou was originally charged with three counts of forgery, conspiracy, fraudulent schemes/artifices, theft and taking the identity of another person.

Columbo was given the same charges of Bilyou but is expected to have more levied against him. He was last in court Monday, Oct. 2 for a pretrial conference.

Columbo and Bilyou also allegedly defrauded people in Idaho as well. In Butte County alone, Bilyou has an active warrant with a $100,000 bond for credit card fraud and Columbo has an active warrant with a $300,000 bond for credit card fraud. Columbo also has a case against him in Bannock County, Idaho, but the case is sealed.

Due to not having the money or resources to extradite Bilyou, she was freed from jail, to be on her way back to New Jersey via a bus ticket purchased by her mother.