(West Memphis, AR) Professional thieves hit the city of West Memphis, creating fake checks tied to city accounts.
“I was real surprised,” said City Treasurer Frank Martin who found problem in the bank account. “We went to the bank at 10:00 in the morning and started checking in on it.”
Martin says thieves made off with almost $120,000 of city funds after stealing, photo-shopping and reprinting five of their checks.
“We opened our December bank statement and on the 15th of January we found three checks that had been cashed and the numbers weren't consistent with what we had,” Martin said.
He says checks made out to a power company were intercepted in Texas, Martin believes, by a postal employee.
They were then photo-copied and made out to someone from California whose identity had been stolen allowing the thieves to open bank accounts online and deposit fake checks over the internet.
“Then they went to the ATM and withdrew the money at $800 a day,” said Martin.
Luckily, the city treasurer says they caught it in time because when five more checks hit the bank totaling another $140,000, the banks had already flagged the accounts.
As for the money the thieves did get, Martin says it won't cost taxpayers because the city's accounts are insured.
Martin says he spent the day opening new, protected accounts to keep the city from falling victim again, “Its a lot of trouble and a little more expense but that's the way it’s got to be.”
Martin says the FBI is investigating the fraudulent checks. Agents told him thieves are hitting cities like this all over the nation.