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14 arrested in check fraud ring

A multi-jurisdictional team involving authorities in Lincoln County has started making arrests in a large check fraud ring responsible for crimes throughout the area.
The incidents date back to as early as January of 2003, according to a press release from Detective Tim Johnson with the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office.
That’s when individual investigators from area sheriff and police agencies began receiving cases to investigate involving the passing of fraudulent checks by a group of individuals, Johnson said.
Most of the checks were written on personal accounts that had been established at numerous banks throughout the area. Some accounts were established in Tennessee.
“They open accounts with $100 and start writing thousands of dollars worth of checks,” Johnson said.
The fraudulent checks were being passed to obtain anything from household goods and appliances to cars, riding lawn mowers and utility trailers.
Two covered utility trailers were purchased from TRT Trailers in Lincoln County with these checks, Johnson said.
Two weeks ago, a multi-jurisdictional task force was formed involving investigators from sheriff’s offices and police departments from seven counties, along with representatives from the FBI, SBI and district attorney’s office of the 25th judicial district. The group began meeting to exchange information and develop a plan of action.
On July 21, the team followed members of the group while they passed and attempted to pass fraudulent checks in Caldwell and Wilkes counties. They purchased riding mowers and a large utility trailer.
Later in the afternoon, one of the members of the group was arrested. At that point, the task force began locating and arresting other group members, searching locations and recovering property.
Six people were involved with the purchases in Lincoln County, and warrants have been issued on two.
Darrell Ricardo Lewis, 37, of Hickory and Norman Wesley Ward, 24, of Caldwell County are being held in other jurisdictions on other charges, Johnson said.
To date, more than 14 people have been arrested and approximately $50,000 worth of property has been recovered. Authorities anticipate making more arrests and recovering additional property in the growing case. “This ring’s big,” Johnson said. “We’re going to make more arrests on it, probably twice that many. It’s just gotten started.” by Alice Smith

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