Utah police bust 3 Californians for using fake traveler's checks

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AMERICAN FORK -- American Fork police have busted a forgery ring based out of California. It involved passing fake traveler's checks to big box retailers and getting away with items and cash.

The fake traveler's checks were used at least two stores Sunday night. Security guards at Target were suspicious and called police.

Four people are now in jail and two others believed to be involved are on the run.

At a glance, the fake travelers check look real, but police say they are good quality forgeries.

"The hologram should change as you move the check around," said Lt. Darren Falslev with the American Fork Police Department about genuine traveler's checks. He said on the counterfeit checks, the hologram is printed but it doesn't change.

Utah police bust 3 Californians for using fake traveler's checks

The $100 American Express traveler's checks were used at a clothing store and a nearby department store Sunday night.

"From our experience so far, they have been targeting the big box stores," Falslev said. "But there are multiple groups going around, this is just one of many."

The suspects were trying to buy small items and get back either cash or gift cards for their change. Store security had been warned of the fraud, and officers noticed the checks' security features didn't match up.

Police were called and Julio Lopez, Joshua Wilburn and Monikka Crain were arrested. A 16-year-old juvenile was also taken into custody. They are all from California, where police believe they operate.

"They have a very set plan where they go up the coast and hit Oregon, Washington, Utah, Nevada and back to California," Falslev said. "It looks like, at this point, they make that trip every two weeks."

Officers recovered two vehicles and served search warrants on the cars. They not only found numerous fake IDs, but equipment to manufacture them.

Police believe many other stores in Utah may have been victimized and haven't yet discovered the checks are fake.

"We're still looking into how far it went, and I'm sure there are others out there that haven't called us yet because they haven't caught them as forgeries," Falslev said.

The three people arrested all face forgery charges.

Police are encouraging businesses to check the security features on the traveler's checks and to call the company that issued them to verify they are legitimate.

E-mail: spenrod@ksl.com


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