Tempe police to announce results of 18-month fraud investigation - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Tempe police arrest 100 after 18-month check fraud investigation

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TEMPE, Ariz. -

Tempe police announced the details of an 18-month fraud investigation that ended with 100 arrests.

The fraud investigation was called Operation "Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself" and authorities say this is the biggest check fraud investigation in the department's history.

Investigators said Tuesday that they dismantled a fraud scheme and arrested 100 people during the 18-month investigation. More arrests could still occur.

The suspects range from ages 18 to 73 and are responsible for more than $240,000 in attempted and completed fraud transactions.

Because of the lengthy operation, some suspects have already been sentenced. Those suspects will serve about 100 hours of prison time collectively.

Tempe's investigation led to the discovery of a larger hierarchy of three loosely affiliated organizations.

Police say lower level people would steal checks out of mailboxes or cars. Then they would bring them to a higher up person known as "the printer" who would make the check. A lower level person would ultimately go cash them at places such as Bashas' and Wal-Marts. They'd also buy items at Target and then sell them on the black market.

"It came from just street level crime," said TPD's Tom Ryff.

Each check was between $200 to $500.

Many of the suspects would break into cars or mailboxes and steal checks from unassuming victims, according to police.

"They are opportunistic thieves going through the neighborhoods and petty thugs taking advantage of individual victims throughout the city," said TPD Commander Kim Hale.

Many of the suspects are family members who were actively recruiting others to participate in and benefit from the criminal activity. They are also said to have gambling and drug addictions.

"This isn't a group of rocket scientists up here. These are people who come up and they find like tweaks and policies that they can get around. Some of them go in there knowingly and use their own IDs and they know at the end of road, they are probably going to do prison time. At the end of the day, they don't care as long as they  get that next fix," said Hale.

Police believe the groups cashed hundreds of checks, resulting in about $250,000 worth of losses for stores.  It was actually the stores' internal security that really helped police unravel the scheme.

Detectives also identified five check fraud mills operating around the valley. 

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