COLUMBIA, SC — An alleged scam operation that cost local banks some $20,000 has been stopped by a special Richland County Sheriff’s Department financial crimes unit, Sheriff Leon Lott announced Thursday.
Seven suspects, including most of its ringleaders, have been arrested and charged with bank fraud and related offenses, according to the sheriff’s department.
Law officials say the scam operated this way: ringleaders would recruit low-income people to open bank accounts at various local banks and give them cash to do so. Then the banks would give the people who opened the accounts a book of starter checks. The account holders would then cash the new checks for far more than the amount used to open the account.
“Additional arrests are forthcoming,” Lott said in a news release.
The banks involved were TD Bank, Wood Forest Bank and Wells Fargo Bank. Video surveillance cameras at those banks helped in gathering evidence.
Although Lott’s investigators have worked financial crimes for years, his new, formal crimes unit has six investigators and was formed earlier this year. Its investigators work all kinds of financial fraud cases as well as identity theft matters.