Comchek thief busted in Indiana; cops say drug habit fueled fraud

| 4/11/2008

Police say Sidney Teague had a way with people.

Teague made a habit of visiting businesses along the Interstate 65 Corridor, introducing himself and making friends.

Then he’d often leave with $4,000 or more.

Police in Scottsburg, IN, arrested Sidney Teague Jr. on March 21 when he tried to pass a forged Comchek at a local bank, ending a law enforcement manhunt throughout Kentucky for a man who made at least tens of thousands of dollars passing multiple fraudulent Comcheks.

Hardin County Sheriff’s Lt. John Meadors said police suspected early on in their investigation that the forged checks were being passed by a truck driver, since Comcheks are rarely cashed by anyone who doesn’t drive truck.

Teague, however, possessed a regular driver’s license from Tennessee.

“He didn’t have a CDL; he just knew how to use a Comchek,” Meadors said. “We know he hit about nine different banks in Kentucky.”

Meadors said Teague had a crafted technique for passing the bad checks, and used his method to fleece banks throughout Kentucky from Sonoraville to Paducah.

Teague told police he would enter a bank and make friendly conversation with the front receptionist, telling the person he was moving to town and needed banking information.

Teague would memorize the receptionist’s initials, write them down on a Comchek and walk to a teller’s booth, where he’d tell the teller he’d already been helped by the receptionist and merely needed to cash his check.

“He was pretty good,” Meadors said.

The alleged thief didn’t, however, possess the sharpest memory.

Meadors said Teague couldn’t answer investigators’ questions regarding his whereabouts when specific banks were bamboozled because he “was on drugs,” so the detectives showed him security photos.

“He’d say, ‘yeah, that’s me right there, and that’s me there,’ ” Meadors said.

Teague told police that his check forgery was fueled by a $900-per-day drug habit, Meadors said.

Police believe he stopped cashing Comcheks in Tennessee after local news there showed security images of a suspect resembling Teague.

Teague served a stretch in prison years ago in Texas, Meadors said, where he may very well have hatched his scheme.

“He was making some money for a while there,” Meadors said. “But with a $900 a day habit, it ran out pretty quick.”

– By Charlie Morasch, staff writer