U.S. Postal inspectors busted a multi-million dollar scheme involving baked goods, social media, identity theft and fraudulent checks.
After executing a search warrant, postal inspectors in pursuit of a huge counterfeit check ring in the midwest made a huge discovery. Postal Inspector Michael van de Putte said, "We found blank checks, check printing programs, check stock, fraudulent identifiers, bank account numbers, different fraudulent id's, as well as an assault rifle and another side arm."
The scheme began with identity thieves gathering victims' personal information, usually online. Then they sent the information to a man named Darnell Lanier. Postal inspectors say he used the information to create checks and send the check back to the thieves.
Inspectors discovered the fraudulent check ordering scam was well organized. Van de Putte said, "They would order over Facebook, other social media, all in code, send text messages ordering baked good from each other."
Here's how it worked. Van de Putte explained, "They would make the check in the name of one of the victims with that victims proper address in whatever state the identifiers came from and then use a fraudulent bank account number with a proper routing number from different banks. They would then print up a fake and very high quality identification, and go in and cash the checks that way."
There were more than 100 victims and $250,000 in losses. Officials say if consumers fear you are identity theft victim call the credit monitoring groups: Experian, Equifax and Transunion. They are required to give one free credit report to anyone every year.
The ring leader, Darnell Lanier, gave inspectors a full confession and helped prosecutors in the case. He was sentenced to 5 years probation and to pay $10,000 in restitution.