Local News

Check Scam Targets Triangle Banks

Posted January 17, 2002

— A counterfeit ring is cashing in on some unsuspecting bank tellers in the Triangle.

Over the last two months, the group of people cashing phony checks has hit banks in Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill, and have walked away with thousands of dollars.

Durham police said that they are closing in on the counterfeit ring and its suspected leader.

The group is described by police as bold and brazen. They look right into bank cameras and even cash the fake paychecks in groups.

"It's an in and out deal with them," said an investigator with the Durham Police Department.

In the last week, Durham police have arrested four people. They are looking for five more -- including William Umstead, the man they believe is the ringleader of the check cashing group.

Investigators believe Umstead, who is known on the streets as Ray, buys blank checks at office supply stores and then prints them up with the logos of local companies.

"He's very experienced. These are some of the best ones we've seen," an investigator said of the checks.

The group has cashed checks at BB&T, First Union and Centura Bank.

Police said that Umstead has a history of passing counterfeit checks and making fake IDs. He is also wanted in Baltimore and New Jersey.

Police said that this is a full-time job for Umstead, who picks up the people in his group and makes a day of it.

"Mr. Umstead knows what to do. He's been doing it for a while, he knows all the tricks and he's gotten away with it," the investigator said.

Investigators hope his luck runs out and they close in on him soon.

Anyone with information is asked to call Durham Crimestoppers at (919) 683-1200.

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