Multiple fraud, drug charges result from interagency bust
A Magna man and Price woman arrested late last month were scheduled to appear Thursday in the Seventh District Court to answer a long list of alleged fraud and drug related charges stemming multiple encounters at Carbon County financial institutions. James Harvey Daniel, 34 and Alicia Marie Christensen, 33 were arrested in Wellington following their attempt to cash alleged fraudulent checks at the Eastern Utah Community Credit Union (EUCCU) in East Carbon on Oct.26.
According to East Carbon Police Chief Sam Leonard, Daniel and Christensen began targeting the local financial institution in early October after they reportedly purchased the banking information of a Carbon County couple and began printing checks with the stolen information via personal computer software.
"The case for our department started when I received a call from Nola Porter at Eastern Utah Community Credit Union," explained Leonard. "She reported that an individual had just attempted to cash a check on a local account for $425 and that was the second such check written on that account within 24 hours."
According to the chief, he contacted the account holders concerning the checks and they were stunned to find out an individual was attempting to draw on their funds.
"They were an elderly couple and they were shocked," said Leonard. "It was easy for them to distinguish the checks as fraud as the numbers on the presented checks did not match theirs and the high amounts were for the purchase of items the couple never bought."
Following the first attempt on the East Carbon EUCCU branch, the suspects tried to cash several checks in Price before returning to East Carbon, when they did return however, the credit union branch and local law enforcement were ready.
"We were shocked by how long they were willing to wait here to see if we would cash the check," said Nola Porter, who works for the credit union. "As they waited, we were able to call the local police as well as take down the plates of their vehicle."
After failing to have the check cashed, the suspects left and were pulled over by local officials in Wellington through the plate report from the ECPD.
"Once again on this case we had some really great inter-agency communication," said Leonard. "Officer Shawn Sackett was on duty when the suspects came back a second time and he received a great amount of assistance from the Wellington and Price departments as well as the county sheriff."
According to Officer Sackett's narrative report concerning the arrest, Daniels was very cooperative at the time of his arrest, he reportedly claimed a backpack inside the 1991 Blue Chevrolet Celebrity the couple was driving. The bag, allegedly contained several more fraudulent check, credit card information and other materials used to produce fraudulent documents.
Following the arrest, Daniel was charged with three separate counts of fraud, possession or use of a controlled substance, identity fraud, unlawful acquisition or possession of a transfer card, possession of another's identifying documents, obstruction of justice, possession of drug paraphernalia and theft by deception. Christensen will face charges including forgery, identity fraud, unlawful acquisition or possession of a transfer card, possession of another's identifying documents, obstruction of justice, possession of drug paraphernalia and theft by deception and giving false personal identity to a peace officer.
After the arrest, local officials realized that Daniel had been using identification stolen from a Layton man while he was in West Jordan this July. The man's checks and cards were also found in the car.
According to local officials, the couple's fraudulent activity was not limited to this arrest. Those involved with the case reported that several suspects in the local area are still being investigated.
"If I could give some advice to citizens in the area, I would caution them to never place checks in their mail box with their bills," explained Sackett. "If one of these people can get a hold of just one of your checks they can then print as many as they need. They only need access to your account numbers once. Also make sure and check your statements regularly, the faster law enforcement knows a crime has been committed the better the chance of making an arrest."
Fraud crimes such as these are difficult because they have many victims, according to officials involved. Both the financial institutions and their members are affected by fraudulent activities, and the effects are often far reaching causing more and more safe guards against this type of white collar crime.
"If you are using paper checks it is very easy for for someone to get a hold of your numbers if they are so inclined," said Price City Police Chief Aleck Shilaos. "In my opinion debit cards are safer, but they have their own problems and as thieves work to find problems within that system."