Authorities say Keith Wright, an inmate who was released in August, used a jail check made payable to him to pay friends' bills over the telephone.
"He made an announcement at a cookout that he would pay bills for a small fee," said Sgt. Jeremiah Davis, of the Durham County Sheriff's Office.
Earlier this month, the Durham County Sheriff's Office received a call that an account used to hold prisoners' money while they are in jail was overdrawn by $8,000. Authorities say Wright used the account number on the check issued to him to pay the bills over the telephone.
The sheriff's office says this happened, in part, because their bank, Central Carolina Bank, switched to SunTrust. When that happened, restrictions that prohibited electronic banking were apparently lifted without the sheriff's department realizing it.
When WRAL went to the Durham apartment where Wright was listed as a resident, no one was home. Neighbors, however, say they recognized him. No one who spoke with WRAL, however, said they had heard of the alleged scheme.
SunTrust will not comment on the case, but told WRAL that it should not have happened. A company representative said steps are being taken to make sure it does not happen again.
Wright, who was arrested on Friday, is back in jail under a $100,000 bond.
The bank and the sheriff's department have been able to recover about $70,000. People who participated in the scheme may also face charges.
Davis says the sheriff's department has discussed the possibility of paying inmates back in cash instead of by check in the future.
Copyright 2023 by Capitol Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.