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Howard Ain, Troubleshooter: Counterfeit check scam, stolen identities

Updated: Friday, January 30 2015, 08:21 AM EST
CINCINNATI (Howard Ain) -- The feds cracked a multimillion dollar counterfeit check scheme but not before the bad guys got a hold of their victims' personal information.

The multimillion dollar scheme involved identity theft and fraudulent checks.  Fortunately, U.S. postal inspectors were able to bust the operation.  Officials found blank checks, check printing programs, check stock, fraudulent identifiers, bank account numbers, different fraudulent ID’s as well as an assault rifle.  All of the items were found through a search warrant executed by postal inspectors in pursuit of   a huge counterfeit check ring in the Midwest.
 
The scam began with identity thieves gathering victims' personal information usually online.
 
Michael Van De Putte, a U.S. postal inspector, said, "They would send the information to Darnell Lanier to create the checks and he would send them back."
 
Inspectors discovered the fraudulent check ordering scam was well organized.
 
Van De Putte continued, "They would order over Facebook other social media all in code, send text messages ordering baked goods from each other."
 
It worked because the scammers would make the check in the name of one of the victims with that victims proper address in whatever state the identifiers came from.  And then they would use a fraudulent bank account number with a proper routing number from different banks.  They would then print up a fake and very high quality identification and go in and cash the checks that way.
 
There were more than 100 victims and $250,000 in losses.  Officials said consumers who fear they were a victim of identity theft should call the credit monitoring groups: Experian, Equifax and Transunion.  They are required to give one free credit report to anyone every year.
          
Darnell Lanier, the ring leader, gave inspectors a full confession and assisted prosecutors in the case.  He was sentenced to five years' probation and ordered to pay $10,000 in restitution.


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