TEMPE, Ariz. — Tempe police report making 100 arrests after an
18-month investigation into area check-fraud operations.
Police estimate that the five operations in metro Phoenix made over $240,000 of attempted and
completed fraud transactions.
It’s the largest fraud case ever investigated by the Tempe police. It’s also the largest case ever prosecuted by the Arizona Attorney General’s Office when it comes to the number of suspects indicted and arrested. A total of 109 indictments were issued and more arrests are expected.
Tempe Police Sgt. Mike Pooley said those arrested are family members are members of three loosely affiliated organizations.
Pooley said the suspects created the fake checks by getting information on people’s checking accounts through burglaries or going through their trash.
They also walked up to people who were going into check cashing centers and asking if they could take a picture of their checks.
“Obviously, there is a fee (when you cash a check at a check cashing center),” said Pooley. “They (the suspects) were paying for that fee and giving people some extra money on top of that just so they could take a picture of that check.”
They then used the information to create fake checks that were cashed at Wal-Mart, Target and Food City. The investigation started in 2012 when security people from all three chains alerted police to the fraud.
Pooley said that the suspects range in age from 18 to 73 years old, and many of those arrested are family members. In one case, a woman taught her grandson how to fake the checks. He eventually started his own organization that created and cashed false checks.
Many of those arrested are believed to have been drug users who were cashing the checks to get money to support their habits.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.