WASHINGTON COUNTY, Va. - Dozens of people are behind bars today charged with passing counterfeit checks. The Secret Service and the U.S. Attorney's Office say they're looking for more people accused of passing those checks.
A two-day arrest operation resulted in the arrest of nearly 70 defendants accused of passing fraudulent checks throughout the region.
"Anytime you arrest 69 people, it's a big deal. The volume of this fraud is substantial and the work that went into these arrests was, as I've said impressive," said Timothy Heaphy, U.S. Attorney.
We found out the investigation started after the individuals presented fraudulent checks at retailers, like Wal-Mart, in the region; the bad checks added up to approximately $100,000. However, it wasn't the amount on the checks that got the attention of the sheriff's department. "A lot of times they would have several checks at once, each of them $100 to $500," said Heaphy.
"The sheer number of checks that were being brought in and cashed threw up a red flag," said Fred Newman, Washington County, Va. Sheriff.
Newman said the defendants used their own IDs when cashing the checks. "That makes our job a little easier when it comes to arrests to be able to locate these individuals," he said.
But even with the defendants in custody, the merchants are still missing a lot of money. "The ones who are out are the merchants, that money in all probability there will not be restitution to be made," said Newman. Passing the loss onto the consumers with higher priced goods.
"We want information about the case to serve as a warning; we want to alert people that we are paying attention. Anyone out there who has intentionally passed a counterfeit check should be very afraid today, very afraid," said Heaphy.
So far, 53 people have been arrested. All individuals have been charged with one count of conspiracy.
The investigation is still ongoing and officials have not confirmed that all those charged were working together.