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Updated Jan 21, 2014 - 11:03 am

Tempe police arrest 100 for check fraud

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Tempe police report making 100 arrests after an 18-month investigation into area check-fraud operations.

Police estimate that the five operations in metro Phoenix made over $240,000 of attempted and completed fraud transactions.

It's the largest fraud case ever investigated by the Tempe police. It's also the largest case ever prosecuted by the Arizona Attorney General's Office when it comes to the number of suspects indicted and arrested. A total of 109 indictments were issued and more arrests are expected.

Tempe Police Sgt. Mike Pooley said those arrested are family members are members of three loosely affiliated organizations.

Pooley said the suspects created the fake checks by getting information on people's checking accounts through burglaries or going through their trash.

They also walked up to people who were going into check cashing centers and asking if they could take a picture of their checks.

"Obviously, there is a fee (when you cash a check at a check cashing center)," said Pooley. "They (the suspects) were paying for that fee and giving people some extra money on top of that just so they could take a picture of that check."

They then used the information to create fake checks that were cashed at Wal-Mart, Target and Food City. The investigation started in 2012 when security people from all three chains alerted police to the fraud.

Pooley said that the suspects range in age from 18 to 73 years old, and many of those arrested are family members. In one case, a woman taught her grandson how to fake the checks. He eventually started his own organization that created and cashed false checks.

Many of those arrested are believed to have been drug users who were cashing the checks to get money to support their habits.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

About the Author

Years with the company: I started on January 2, 2006.

Education: I was born in San Antonio, Texas, but we moved to Phoenix when I was one-year-old in 1957. I grew up here and graduated from Alhambra High School and attended Phoenix College.

Family: I live in north Phoenix with my wife Rene' and my son Devin.

Favorite food: Lots of favorite food, but our favorite restaurant is Fajitas.

Favorite spot in Arizona: The Little America Hotel in Flagstaff.

Favorite news memory: We have to go back to October 15, 1979. I was a country music air personality at KROP Radio in Brawley, California, when we had a 6.7 earthquake. Thankfully, there were no deaths and only minor injuries, but the entire community was pretty freaked out and listening to the station on their transistor radios. I would not want to go through an earthquake again, but it sure was a great night to work in radio and see how it can make a difference in people's lives.

First job: Working as a stringer for 'The Arizona Republic' at high school football games. My first real job was flipping burgers at the old Sandy's Hamburgers at 51st Avenue and Indian School Road. My first radio job was as announcer at KALJ radio in Yuma in 1977.

First concert: My Dad took me to see Jimmy Dean at the Arizona State Fairgrounds in the 1960's. It was before the Coliseum was built. The only thing I remember is Jimmy Dean singing his big hit "Big Bad John."

Favorite sports team: Phoenix Roadrunners minor league hockey. My dad took me to a game when I was in grade school, and I was hooked. I wanted to be a radio hockey play-by-play man. I used to take my cassette recorder and sit up in the rafters of the Coliseum and do play-by-play. It was great later in life to also take my son to Roadrunners games. Too bad the team just folded, I'll miss them. (Going to the Coyotes is fun, but they're not "my" team.)

Outside interests: My family and I are active in our church - Shiloh Community Church in Phoenix. Devin is a high school student at Scottsdale Christian Academy. He plays on the baseball, football, and basketball teams and sings in the choir. Obviously, we keep busy trying to go to all his events! We enjoy going to movies, sporting events, and long road trips. We like to vacation at the Beach Cottages in the Pacific Beach area of San Diego. And I love to play catch, basketball, football with my son.


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