Masterminds in Lexington check-cashing scheme sought

Police are looking for the masterminds behind an unusual theft ring that enlists homeless people to cash fraudulent checks at banks.

The scam has netted "tens of thousands of dollars," Lexington police spokeswoman Sherelle Roberts said. About 60 fraudulent checks are thought to have been cashed.

Lexington police first noticed the trend about a month ago, Roberts said, prompting financial crimes detectives to send an alert to Lexington banks. The latest theft happened Monday at Traditional Bank on Palumbo Drive about midday. Bank employees called detectives, saying they had received a fraudulent check that might be related to the scam.

The checks appear to be legitimate but have been altered, Roberts said. The thieves change the names of the people to whom the checks have been made out and change the amount on the checks.

Police say whoever is organizing the thefts probably offers transients a cut of the money. The homeless people who participate are usually clean cut and well dressed.

"Their appearance and clothing would not signal suspicion," Roberts said.

Police are investigating each theft individually, "but the greater focus is to stop the individuals who are behind this plan," she said.

Officers are looking for a black 2010 Ford Fusion with Georgia license plate BLJ-496. That vehicle might be tied to the scam, she said.

Anyone who sees the vehicle is asked to call Lexington police at (859) 258-3600.