Grand Island police say forgers from out of town have come to Grand Island this week and persuaded local homeless people to bring fake checks to local banks.
If the homeless people are successful in getting the checks cashed, they get a portion of the amount, says Police Capt. Dean Elliott.
The criminals are somehow obtaining account information from local businesses and forging checks, Elliott said. The local residents present their ID at the bank, showing that they’re the recipients of the checks.
The fraud has been attempted at five Grand Island banks, Elliott said. In some cases, the local individuals have been arrested.
But the forgers have not been apprehended. Those people have a good escape plan. They remain in the car when the homeless person goes inside the bank. If he gets caught, the criminals drive away, Elliott said.
In some cases, alert bank tellers have called Grand Island businesses to ask if a check is legitimate. If it’s not, the bank calls the police.
At about 4:35 p.m. Thursday, Jeffery Svitak was arrested at the Bank of Doniphan, 1010 N. Diers Ave. Svitak admitted that it appeared to be a scam. Svitak was arrested for first-degree forgery.
At the same time, Carlo Lyttle was arrested at 1333 N. Webb Road. MF Enterprises said Lyttle was attempting to cash a fraudulent check for $3,190.17 from its account. Lyttle was arrested for first-degree forgery.
Earlier Thursday, at about 3:50 p.m., another man tried to victimize the Bank of Doniphan, 1010 N. Diers Ave. The suspect presented a check written out to him from Kramer’s Wrecker Service. After a phone call to Kramer’s, bank employees did not cash the check and told the man they would hold onto it. He left the scene before he could be arrested. But police know who the man is, and he will be arrested, Elliott said.
On Wednesday, Great Western Bank reported that unknown males appeared to have used a local company’s routing number and account number on the checks. The company told the bank that none of its payroll checks were missing.
The scheme, known as Operation Homeless, has been used across the United States. It was used in Lincoln in 2015, Elliott said. And it’s been reported in the Dakotas.
Grand Island has seen Operation Homeless before, but not to this extent, Elliott said.
A Grand Island bank reported that its Kearney location was receiving fraudulent checks Friday. So it’s possible that the forgers have moved on to Kearney, Elliott said.