Check-cashing scheme leaves police puzzled
Story by Gordon Boyd
Eyewitness News Reporter
RED BANK, TN. (WRCB)-- Police are still seeking answers to a massive check-cashing scheme in Red Bank.
In fact, the police chief calls it the biggest case of 'hit and run' theft he's ever seen.
The victim is a Cash Express, a quick and easy loan shop only a block from the police station.
Show some identification, proof of a job, and some collateral and you get a few hundred bucks, to pay back, over time, at higher-than-market interest.
But once they got their cash, they dashed.
"They do such a volume business and you have such a multitude of employees working this that it took awhile to put all of this together," says Red Bank Police Chief Tim Christol.
It took more than two months, from mid September to late last November, for cash express staffers to realize that some of their customers wouldn't be paying back a penny, even though the interest rate would grow the longer the loan was out there.
"Most of them were from the 200-dollar mark, that way it didn't raise suspicions," says Chief Christol.
That is until the IOU's and paperwork started piling up.
Red Bank Police figure Cash Express has lost at least $17,000.
"Honestly don't know for sure. It's probably going to be in the neighborhood of 30 to 40 grand," says owner Gary McNabb.
Even though Cash Express demands identification, just to get in the door, the IDs used weren't legitimate.
"They were taking and using fake IDs to claim they were that person," says Chief Christol. "The assumption would be that they're using a computer program to do it."
Google counterfeit payroll stubs, and you get several websites selling software to create payroll checks.
We didn't download the demo, but the sites claim they're to help business owners show proof of employment in order to get bank loans and credit.
As sophisticated as it might be technically, police say the scanners made a major mistake. Cash Express has security cameras. Everybody was caught on video.
Red Bank police say they've needed another two months to sort out who's who.
They don't know whether their 89 suspects are working together, or simply passed the word, like a chain letter.
But since warrants went out, some have come forward.
"We have a couple that are arranging to turn themselves in right now," Chief Christol.
Police are hopeful those suspects will lead them to the rest, or at least to how this all came together.
They're also trying to determine whether this scam went beyond Red Bank.
Trouble is, Red Bank has lost officers, recently to scandal, and to other departments, a manpower shortage that makes a full-scale roundup, tough.