The president of one of the city's largest Mummers groups was charged by federal officials today in a scheme to forge payroll checks that netted him nearly $450,000.

John R. Pignotti, 50, former president of the Philadelphia String Band Association, is accused of mail fraud and identity theft in an information filed by the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Pignotti, of South Philadelphia, worked for a security firm in Bala Cynwyd until 2008, then was hired as a branch manager at another security firm in Philadelphia.

Pignotti had the authority to generate employee payrolls, approve invoices and distribute paychecks at both firms.

Federal prosecutors say Pignotti stole $111,000 from the Bala Cynwyd company using the identification of former security guards to create fraudulent paychecks issued in their names. Pignotti, prosecutors said, then cashed the checks and kept the proceeds.

At the Philadelphia security firm, Pignotti repeated the process, prosecutors said. He created fictitious clients, including "H&B Towers" and "B&C Arcade", and made up security guards who worked for those fake business. To make the clients look real, prosecutors said he created false invoices, which he mailed to post office boxes he had opened in the names of the fake companies. Before he left the firm on April 9, Pignotti made off with $326,000 from the Philadelphia company, prosecutors said.

If convicted, Pignotti faces a 22 year sentence and a $500,000 fine.

Pignotti was president of the String Band Association until February when the group elected Marty Good for the top job, said a spokeswoman for the Mummer Museum.

Contact staff writer Sam Wood at 215-854-2796 or