One For Our Side!
"Thanks!" to Chuck Lelinski, Security Officer of the First Financial Bank in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, for sending us a front page story from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinal newspaper. The headline story concerned the breaking up of a check forgery ring that had been in existence for 18 months in the Milwaukee area, causing losses "substantially in excess of $100,000".
Two of the women involved turned themselves in and detailed the operation after one of them suffered a broken jaw in a beating by members of the organized group. Just the two of them had cashed over $46,000 worth of checks in the two months they were involved with the group. Both were given probation with orders of restitution.
One of the arrested leaders of the ring has been charged with 15 counts of forgery-charges that carry a prison term of up to 150 years. The police hope to identify and arrest more people in connection with the ring.
The format is familiar to us.
Using good account numbers and names, obtained from good personal checks used in legitimate transactions, the forgers cashed and split counterfeit and worthless checks at various banks throughout the city. Phony identification was created to match the information on the accounts. The "low-level", actual passers (such as the two women described above) received about 10% of the "take". The rest went to the "boss" or "brains" of the operation, who usually sat in the back seat of the car, or followed in a second car, and only handled the fraudulent checks with gloves on.
The woman who was beaten, and subsequently turned herself in, said she became extremely nervous when Paul Kubiak, one of First Financial's tellers, "took a long time" handling and checking out the transaction." She finally ran out of the banking office, leaving behind her the phony identification and the bad check. The "boss" was "extremely angry" with her when she returned to the car, according to her story to the police.
(Ed. note: "extremely angry" were not her original words, according to our source!)
Being stalled by the teller, getting good pictures with the CCTV, and running out in the middle of the transaction was good enough for an ID and an arrest.
Good for your teller, Chuck! Pass on our congratulations.
Copyright © 1995 Bankers' Hotline. Originally appeared in Bankers' Hotline, Vol. 6, No. 1, 9/95
First published on 09/01/1995