Police suspect check-forging ring targeting southern Wisconsin banks

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Frank Schultz
September 1, 2015

EVANSVILLE—Small-town bankers, beware.

Someone in the Milwaukee area has come up with a scheme to defraud you of thousands of dollars.

In two similar cases, two men were charged in Rock County Court last week with trying to cash forged checks at banks in Evansville and Milton.

Both men said they had been approached in Milwaukee and asked to cash the checks so that the checks' owners, who were going through divorces, could keep the money from their wives, according to criminal complaints.

Lt. Jay Koehler of the Evansville Police Department already was dealing with two bogus checks cashed at the Greenwood State Bank and one unsuccessful attempt when he found out Tuesday of the similar case in Milton.

Koehler also knows of two successfully cashed bogus checks at a bank in Lake Mills.

“I'm sure some more will turn up,” Koehler said.

Facing forgery charges are David J. Abel, 57, of Oak Creek, in the Evansville case, and Justin M. Orlando, 32, in the Milton case.

Orlando, who told police he is homeless and lives on the streets in Milwaukee, tried to cash a check at First Community Bank in Milton.

Both men walked into the banks Aug. 25.

In both cases, the men tried to cash checks of more than $4,000, but bank staffs alerted police, and they were arrested, according to the criminal complaints.

Koehler said it appears someone is stealing mail from businesses to find checks, which are duplicated and made to look as though they are made out to the people who try to cash them.

Koehler suspects the check forgers are using drug-addicted people who need cash.

In the Evansville case, the teller recognized Abel's check as being similar to two bogus checks that someone successfully cashed the day before, according to the complaint.

Abel had showed up with a $4,389 check from an Evansville contractor made payable to himself, according to the complaint.

Abel told police he met someone driving a white car just south of downtown Milwaukee who asked him to cash a check and who gave him a suit and tie to wear.

The person told Abel he didn't think a bank would cash a check from someone dressed as Abel was originally dressed, according to the complaint.

Police found a price tag affixed to the suit Abel was wearing.

In the Milton case, Orlando presented a check from a Milton business for $4,178, according to the complaint.

Orlando said he was having lunch at a rescue mission Aug. 24 when two men pulled up and asked if he wanted to make some money.

Orlando said he got into a white Chevrolet Impala that had a sticker from Texas on it. He recognized another man in the car as “Jeremy,” whom he knows from the mission.

Two men in the front seat drove them to a hotel in Racine for the night. The next morning they met another car, a black Ford Focus, in a Wal-Mart parking lot in Sturtevant.

Orlando said he and Jeremy got into the Focus, which drove them to Milton, where one of the men picked up two checks near the intersection of Elm Street and Golden Lane, according to the complaint. One check was made out to Orlando and one to Jeremy.

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