Check Scammers Target Mountain Business
Updated: Friday, March 8 2013, 09:31 AM EST
It was one suspicious teller at an Asheville bank that stopped short a crime spree that drained $20,000 from the account of a small Columbus business in just hours.
"They started cashing checks at about 2:30 in the afternoon, and by 5:30 they had cashed $20,0000 worth of checks," said All Bright Sanitation owner George Geisler.
Surveillance video shows three Hispanic men - two appear to be in their twenties, the third possibly in his thirties - approaching the counters in banks in Buncombe, Henderson, and Polk County and cashing bad checks Friday afternoon.
"They've got a very good and well planned out operation that they have come up with," said Detective Sergeant Randall Hodge of the Polk County Sheriff's Department.
Usually fraudulent checks people attempt to cash are fake checks - meaning the bank is the one that's ripped off.
"The difference here is that these checks are legitimate checks, they appear to be real, they look real, they're drawing on a legitimate checking account," said Hodge.
In this case, the trio is charged with breaking into the business office of All Bright Sanitation and stealing payroll checks.
"Somebody really had to do their homework," said Geisler, who noticed a window had been tampered with only after he found out from a bank that his checks were being cashed by strangers. "They had to case the joint, they really had to figure out how we're operating. they avoided all the security cameras we had."
The men then used fake government identification cards, filled in bogus names and made-up addresses - even plugging in about what a paycheck from All Bright would amount to - forged Geisler's signature, and cashed in repeatedly.
"Just pass it off as they just got paid ... on Friday from their employer and ran to the bank and cashed the checks," said Hodge, who said they likely blended in with others that afternoon cashing end-of-the-week paychecks.
The three cashed 21 of Geisler's checks at five different banks.
"Something that i'm trying to piece together, is why would they have chosen this particular business," said Hodge Thursday afternoon.
"I have no idea," said Geisler, when asked why he may have been targeted. "Everybody keeps saying it might have been a former employee that wasn't involved but might have given somebody an idea. I just, I don't know."
By Ashlea Surles
Follow Ashlea on Twitter @AshleaSurles