Check theft linked to California ring
Losses in the hundreds of thousands of
By MATT FURBER
Express Staff Writer
Acting on a hunch gleaned from an
Associated Press news story last week, Ketchum Police investigator Lee Edgerton
linked a series of local check fraud incidents in the Wood River Valley to a
California check theft ring.
Individuals who allegedly stole and forged
paychecks in Ketchum, Bellevue and in Blaine County shared tactics with members
of what is believed to be a larger Los Angeles, Calif., ring, Edgerton said.
Police last week arrested five men and one
woman in Coeur D’Alene who had tried to cash forged payroll checks, Edgerton
The six, charged with grand theft and
forgery, were identified as Josephina Prado Garcia, 41; Dany Leal Lopez, 21;
Felipe deJesus Hernandez-Ramirez, 29; Jose Guadalupe Flores, 24; Adolfo Ernesto
Triminio, 37, and Francisco Javier Armendariz, 43, all from California.
Edgerton said Ketchum police have been
investigating check theft since May 16 when 42 checks from two construction
companies totaling some $42,000 were cashed at banks in Ketchum and Boise with
the Bank of America suffering the heaviest losses.
The Bellevue Marshal’s office, Boise
police and the Blaine County Sheriff’s office are also looking into the Coeur D’
Alene theft in connection to similar cases in Bellevue and in the county, said
Blaine County Sheriff Walt Femling.
"We’re coordinating on this," Femling
said. He said Wood River Valley police are trying to identify whether the people
who were arrested in Coeur D’ Alene are the same people or if they are part of
bigger ring that seems to be connected to similar cases throughout the West.
"They could be the same. They used the
same (modus operandi) as to what happened here."
"These guys have been everywhere,"
Authorities believe check theft in
Wyoming, Utah, Arizona, California, Washington and Oklahoma could be linked to
the Idaho crimes.
Edgerton said that after comparing notes
with Detective Shardell Ellis of the Kootenai County Sheriff’s office,
responsible for arresting alleged forgers in Coeur D’ Alene, one pattern that
tipped her off was that all the forged checks were written for just under
"It was the exact same thing," she said.
"I’m 100 percent convinced we’re talking about the same people here."
Ellis said that because of the Coeur D’
Alene arrest her office has become the central gathering point for information
in the case.
Edgerton said that people with fake Oregon
driver’s licenses used Hispanic names to forge checks and that the thefts have
mainly been from construction related businesses.
In northern Idaho false California
driver’s licenses were used, Edgerton said.
"Business owners don’t realize checks have
been stolen (immediately) because they are typically taken from the middle or
bottom of a checkbook," Ellis said. "From what I’ve see so far all of the names
used have been Hispanic."
Edgerton said business owners robbed in
Ketchum did not recognize any of the names as their own employees.
Edgerton said police also believe that
once forged checks are cashed, the money is sent back to members of a Vietnamese
gang that has recruited the alleged forgers.
Edgerton said she has sent reports about
the Ketchum cases to Ellis and she expects the FBI to be involved in the
investigation that could involve losses of millions of dollars throughout the
"I still haven’t added it all up," Ellis
said. "Of all the agencies and banks that have reported to me, at least $500,000
has been stolen. I expect there are many, many more forged checks. Employers
should keep things locked up. Be mindful of checking."