Six possibly involved in phony check ring

By: Melissa Tune Email
By: Melissa Tune Email

June 7, 2007

AUGUSTA, Ga.---A convenience store owner is out almost $3000 after cashing fake checks. Investigators in Richmond County are looking for six people who they say created, forged and passed those checks.

It's a crime that continues to resurface. The thieves make the checks look real to the average eye. But to a trained Richmond County white collar crime investigator, the documents are clearly counterfeit--and they say it's only a matter of time before they catch who's involved this time.

The checks cashed at manager Sonny Patel's Discount Mart convenience store look real enough. But the account number is fake, the business name and location are fake, and all of the security features are fake. The only real elements are the names on the checks--those of the four people authorities say created the fake documents and cashed them.

"There is a trail to everything that transpires, every unauthorized transaction," said Inv. Michael McDaniel. "There is a way to find out."

"When the suspects presented these counterfeit, fictitious documents, they presented their real Georgia or South Carolina ID, which contained their information," he explained.

Right now investigators are searching for four people and maybe two others. 27-year-old Denetrice Johnson, 28-year-old Carolyn Wright, 26-year-old Brandisc Irving, and 28-year-old Glennell Bass all used their real IDs when they cashed the checks.

Other than the names, all of other information was bogus. The address for Wachovia is actually that of a rental car company, and the address for Burger King ends up at an almost empty office building. The McDonalds on Washington Road does exist, but there are no employees there by any of the names.

"It's not smart, it just goes to show you that the person doesn't know exactly what they're doing," Inv. McDaniel said.

Patel is the one who cashed the fake checks. He says he did everything he possibly could to verify them before handing over the cash.

"I cash check because it looks real," he said.

Patel says he sometimes goes a step further and calls to verify employment, but it didn't help in this case.

"Somebody answered the phone, and they said this check is real and this person works for Burger King," he said.

Inv. McDaniel tells News 12 that when they do bring in the check thieves, they can be sure stiff charges will come.

"Presenting a fictitious document is a felony. Forging or putting a fictitious or real name on a document is a felony. You don't even have to receive money," he said. "Just the possession of the document is a felony."

Patel says his store will continue to take checks, but for now will have to be more cautious.

"We try to help people, but people do like that," he said. "That why we have to make sure they don't do like that."

"We will get down to it," Inv. McDaniel said. "It might take some time, but we're going to find out where it's coming from--no doubt."

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