Local News

Counterfeit Scheme Costs Johnston Businesses Thousands Of Dollars

Posted December 11, 2003

— Several businesses in Johnston County are also counting their losses from a fake check-cashing scheme.

Clayton Food Town is a locally owned grocery store with local perks like cashing people's paychecks, but owner Harvey Wall said that is what also made him a target.

"The check is almost an identical match. I don't know how you could separate it," Wall said.

The store was targeted in a counterfeit check-cashing scheme. Investigators said a group of at least 10 Hispanic men and women are passing fake payroll checks in the name of another local business -- Pender Nursery.

"They know the name. They're used to cashing our checks for years and I guess they assume they are legitimate employees," said Jim Deal, of Pender Nursery.

Clayton Food Town is out close to $7,000. Other Johnston County stores and banks are out a combined total of about $64,000. Wall said he asked for ID, but Clayton police Lt. Bill Newsome said other stores and busy tellers are forgetting.

"That's what they want to do -- go to a cashier who's extremely busy. They will take the check and usually not ask for an ID at all," he said.

Investigators think the scheme stems from check-marking software anyone can pick up at an office supply store. Authorities say there are leads in the case, but counterfeit checks are still surfacing. Businesses are asked to check ID and match the business name with the account number on any check that is cashed.

Another counterfeiting incident is drawing the ire of the Sheriff's Office. Sheriff Steve Bizzell said former inmate Joseph Lee Ford apparently made and cashed $29,000 worth of checks with a sheriff's office bank account number and a fake business name.

Investigators think he was able to get the account number off of a check that issued to him when he was released.


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