Check forgery ring exposed in South Carolina

| 11/27/2001

South Carolina state police and police departments in five towns upstate are joining forces to bust a check forgery ring reported to be working the Carolinas. Investigators say the alleged forgers are altering ComCheks and counter checks and cashing them throughout the two states and possibly Georgia.

Cooperative efforts of law enforcement organizations in Seneca, Spartanburg, Anderson, Greenville and Newberry have narrowed the suspects to six or seven people. "Two have rap sheets as long as 15 pages," Detective Sgt. Ted Roundy of the Seneca Police Department said.

Police say the forgers operate by removing instruction number three on ComCheks and somehow obtaining an express code. The line states, "Call Comdata and give the customer service representative your express code, as well as the amount of money you are to receive." Counter checks also have been cut to resemble payroll checks and cashed.

"The forgers have cashed the checks at smaller stores in both South Carolina and North Carolina," said Lt. Wesley Boland of the Newberry Sheriff's Department. Boland is in charge of coordinating the combined effort to track and arrest the forgers.

Boland told Land Line the majority of ComCheks were illegally stolen from a Columbia 20 Travel Center by a young black woman who told travel center employees that the truckstop she worked for down the road had run out of ComCheks and "could she borrow some?" An employee gave the woman a box of checks. It is unclear as to how many were in the box, but Boland said he believes the box contained about 1,500 checks. Joe Bosco, fuel desk manager at Columbia 20, said he could not verify that any ComCheks had been stolen.

"It's not just one truckstop," Boland explained. "At a Pantry Travel Plaza, a truckdriver said he represented his carrier and they were short of ComCheks and asked if could he borrow four or five." Employees there also handed them over without question. Police are currently investigating a trucking company in South Carolina that may be implicated in the scam, but authorities would not disclose details. "These people are getting express codes somewhere," Boland said.

The Seneca Police Department has two ComCheks and two counterfeit checks in their office, Boland reported. Dollar amounts vary from $300 to $500. Newberry police also have two checks.

The forgery ring, comprised of at least five men and two women, one white and one black, has expanded its operation across the Carolinas and may have crossed into Georgia by now, Boland told Land Line. Warrants have been issued for the arrest of two of the suspects. "They may have left the state," he said. "We are now working closely with Comdata and other police departments, SLED (South Carolina Law Enforcement Department) and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. This is a tough one, these characters that are using multiple aliases are hard to pin down."
--Donna Carlson