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Banks warned of counterfeit checks being cashed

Published 9:14pm Friday, August 14, 2009

By JESSICA SIEFF
Niles Daily Star

Area authorities are warning banking institutions and businesses about several incidents of counterfeit activity resulting in a loss amounting to over an estimated $19,000.

According to the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department, the Van Buren County Sheriff’s Department, FBI and Eau Claire Police Department, an investigation is underway of an alleged Counterfeit Check Ring which has been hitting local banks and businesses.

In a notice sent out to area businesses and banks, Buchanan Police Department Chief William Marx said authorities have classified the suspects as a group of Hispanic males.
The suspects are passing payroll checks that appear as though they are from local area farms, including Berry Brook Farms of Dowagiac.

Such checks were allegedly passed by suspects through the West Michigan Savings Bank in Bangor.

The total loss: $19,400.

Police say the suspected ring includes a group of 15 to 20 males of Hispanic ethnicity.
The group apparently enters local banking institutions and cash the suspected counterfeit payroll checks.

The men apparently then exit the bank only to return wearing different clothing and cash additional checks.

So far, an unnamed financial institution with locations in Berrien Springs and Eau Claire reportedly received counterfeit checks which it had unwittingly cashed Aug. 7.
Police say the ring has “hit several banks and several stores in Berrien and Van Buren County.”

The checks are allegedly fitted with computerized signatures.

Additional information being released by police includes suspected vehicles being used by the alleged ring.

Marx described the vehicles in his announcement as having Georgia state registration and listed one vehicle in particular as being a maroon Kia made automobile of unknown model and a white mini van – both with Georgia state license plates.

The police are asking banks not to wait before contacting them in the case of such an incident.

It was also stated that the suspects reportedly entered the bank shortly before the facility closed for the day.

Marx had also stated in his announcement that the victimized banking facility in Eau Claire had cashed 40 of the counterfeit checks, the Berrien Springs location cashing only one.
Citizens with any information or questions should contact their local authorities immediately.

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