UNDATED -- It was a multi-million dollar scheme involving identity theft and fraudulent checks. In this week's Consumer Alert, Ted Wayman has the story of how it worked and how postal inspectors busted the operation.
U.S. Postal Inspector Michael Van de Putte said, "We found blank checks, check printing programs, check stock, fraudulent identifiers, bank account numbers, different fraudulent ID's//as well as an assault rifle and another side arm."
All through a search warrant executed by postal inspectors in pursuit of a huge counterfeit check ring in the Midwest.
The scam began with identity thieves gathering victims' personal information usually online. Van de Putte said, "They would send the information to Darnell Lanier to create the checks and he would send them back."
Inspectors discovered the fraudulent check ordering scam was well organized. Van de Putte said, "They would order over Facebook other social media all in code, send text messages ordering baked good from each other."
Van de Putte explained how it worked, "They would make the check in the name of one of the victims with that victims proper address in whatever state the identifiers came from and then use a fraudulent bank account number with a proper routing number from different banks//They would then print up a fake and very high quality identification and go in and cash the checks that way."
There were more than 100 victims and $250,000 in losses. Officials say if consumers fear you are identity theft victim call the credit monitoring groups: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. Van de Putte said, "They are required to give one free credit report to anyone every year."
Darnell Lanier, the ring leader, gave inspectors a full confession and helped prosecutors in the case.
He was sentenced to five years probation and has to pay $10,000 in restitution.