Gresham police bust 60-person theft ring
Three arrested for using fraudulent checks to steal $140,000
A state Department of Human Services bank account was used to drain $140,000 from local retailers in a check cashing fraud operation, Gresham police officials said.
The large fraud was exposed with the assistance of DHS investigators and Detective Brandon Crate with the Gresham Police Department, officials said.
Prosecutors charged Andrew Prevost, 37, with aggravated theft following his arrest Wednesday, July 10, at his home near Southeast 120th Avenue and Bush Street in Portland.
DHS agents first noticed suspicious activity on one of the agencys bank accounts in April. They contacted Crate and other detectives with Gresham police who eventually identified Prevost as the ring leader.
For Gresham, this is a rare case, said Detective John Rasmussen, a police spokesman.
Gene Evans, DHS spokesman, said Prevost might have copied or scanned the bar code or account number from a legitimate DHS check and then used it to create the fake checks. Taxpayers should be reassured the agency was not compromised and no state funds were ever accessed, Evans said.
Prevost is accused of enlisting others to participate in the theft, Rasmussen said.
The group created approximately 100 bogus payroll checks using the DHS account number. Dollar amounts were ranging roughly between $500 and $2,500, Rasmussen said.
Prevost also reportedly recruited his girlfriend, Jenifer Patrick, 36, to help find other people to cash the fake checks. Police arrested her in connection to the fraudulent check cashing investigation on Wednesday after officers with a warrant searched the apartment she shares with Prevost. She faces allegations of conspiracy to commit first-degree theft and identity theft.
Bodhi Phelps, 20, also allegedly recruited people to cash checks as part of the ring, and was arrested Wednesday on an allegation of heroin possession.
We have zero doubt that they were the leads for this and they were involved, Rasmussen said.
Detectives describe the criminal activity Prevost was involved in as a pyramid scheme.
The four top recruiters were guaranteed $300 from the checks that were cashed. The remaining money was split evenly between Prevost and the check casher.
Police said the forged checks used well-known business names, including Home Depot, United State Postal Service, Columbia Sportswear and DHS.
Using a larger company like they did, they were able to go undetected for several months, Rasmussen said.
Detective Crate was able to find more than 60 other people acting under Prevosts direction who were cashing fraudulent checks.
Most of the transactions occurred at Walmart in Portland and Vancouver, Wash., said Lt. Claudio Grandjean, a police spokesman.
Evans said it was Walmart and other small businesses that lost money by cashing the fraudulent checks.
Prevost made his first court appearance Thursday, July 11, in Multnomah County Circuit Court. A defense attorney entered a not guilty plea on his behalf. His next court date is set for July 19.
Anyone with information on the case is urged to call 503-618-2719.Add a comment