Wednesday, February 13, 2013 —
Three people have been arrested and taken into federal custody in connection with a large scale counterfeit check investigation that has been in progress for several months, according to a release from the Stanly County Sheriff’s Office.
The counterfeit check investigation was initiated by the sheriff’s office after numerous reports of check fraud were received from victims living in Stanly County. The check fraud incidents were reported sporadically in the beginning of 2012 and continued to occur more frequently over the next several months. To date there has been more than 50 separate victims in Stanly that can be linked to the suspects’ fraudulent activity. Additional incidents have been reported to law enforcement agencies in surrounding counties as well.
The suspects were using identifying information of the victims to create and print counterfeit checks and complete fraudulent transactions, the sheriff’s office said.
It was later determined that one of the suspects obtained the identifying information while being employed by a food distribution company that services the area. The suspects would primarily pass the counterfeit checks at larger retailers in the greater Charlotte metropolitan area. The fraudulent activity also occurred in South Carolina and other locations in North Carolina.
The amounts of the counterfeit checks primarily ranged from $200 to $400 and were used to purchase gift cards and merchandise at the retailers. The total amount of fraud loss was estimated to exceed $100,000.
After determining the severity and extent of the fraudulent activity, the Stanly County Sheriff’s Office enlisted the assistance of the United States Secret Service to join the investigation. The investigation was enhanced with a network of representatives and investigators from affected financial institutions and retail businesses where the fraudulent activity occurred.
Fraud investigators from the two primary check verification companies provided information that permitted the identification and tracking of the fraudulent activity. As the joint investigation progressed, a sufficient amount of evidence and information was obtained allowing the Secret Service to proceed with charging the three suspects.
The three suspects in custody are Micah Aaron Bolton, 25, of Charlotte, Roger Trent Melchor, 44, of Indian Trail and Andra Tobias Barnes, 36, of Concord. All three suspects were arrested on Jan. 30 and have been charged initially with bank fraud, conspiracy and aiding and abetting.
Other agencies that assisted in the investigation include Albemarle Police Department, Granite Quarry Police Department, Rock Hill (S.C.) Police Department, Cabarrus County Sheriff’s Office, Gastonia Police Department, Concord Police Department, Union County Sheriff’s Office and Davidson County Sheriff’s Office.