Local homeless targeted in Cleveland check fraud ring
Cleveland Police are asking for help in shutting down a forgery ring they say is targeting Chattanooga's homeless population. Investigators say they're taking advantage of people down on their luck, in order to make money.
Cleveland Police are looking for the men at the center of a check fraud ring. Over the last four weeks, they've made off with around$10,000 from Cleveland banks, by using homeless people they've recruited from shelters and soup kitchens around Chattanooga.
Cleveland Police want you to take a close look at the two men they say are the masterminds behind a forgery operation that's making them rich, and putting homeless people behind bars in their place.
"It's still going on and it's going to keep going on until these people get caught," Cleveland Police Officer Evie West said.
Police say they start by hanging around Chattanooga's homeless shelters and soup kitchens and asking 'who wants to make two hundred dollars?'
"Bring them here to Cleveland to a local bank, and then they write their names or have their names printed on a check from their Id's," Officer West said.
The homeless person shows their ID to the bank teller, and gets a check of between $1,200 to $2,200 cashed.
"They come back out, they give the money to the two African American males. The African American males then give them $200 for their payment, and take them back to Chattanooga," Officer West said.
"It's sad. I mean it's sad and it's very devastating. I mean that's wrong," Prince Appleberry said.
Prince Appleberry volunteers at Chattanooga's Community Kitchen and is homeless himself. He says it's wrong to take advantage of people who are desperate to make cash. He's spreading the word about the scam.
"I hope they catch ya'll because this is wrong and people down here, it's hard on everybody," Appleberry said.
"You know, they're the victims but they're also the suspects because they're not going to know the standard operating procedure of this crime, but they're being used and they're going to be charged," Officer West said.
The homeless people agreeing to cash the checks are committing forgery too, though, and police know exactly who they are since they used their ID's at the banks. Four of them have already been indicted. Two have active warrants. Two more are awaiting extradition from the Hamilton County Jail.
"Unfortunately the people that are behind this are not getting charged," Officer West said.
If you recognize the men in the picture, you're asked to call the Cleveland Police Department. They'll face charges of forgery and conspiracy.
The forged checks have been cashed at Cleveland banks at least once or twice every week for the last month. Detectives do not know where the men are getting the real account and routing numbers that they're printing on the phony checks.