Investigators break-up alleged check fraud ring; 2 arrested

CROSBY — Precinct 3 Deputies netted a criminal organization operating in Harris, Chambers, Liberty and Montgomery counties by catching a couple using phony identification to cash bogus company checks here on Dec. 18.
A store manager at Arlan’s Market alertly contacted authorities, keep suspects inside the store for as long as possible, got the license plates and description of a car bearing a man and woman the second time someone attempted to cash a check purportedly from a local petrochemical company with suspect identification.
Lt. Ganey, Deputy Vince Perry and Corporal Mike Conner of Constable Ken Jones’ Department were sweeping the streets here to catch the culprits. Similar incidents in which a variety of false identification, including that of U.S. Coast Guard personnel, was being used to cash checks counterfeited with color laser printers from Beach City to Porter, especially in Liberty and Harris counties.

Deputy Perry intercepted the escape car while Ganey verified evidence with KMCO Chemical L.P.’s accountant. Deputy Perry brought the two back to Arlan’s where they were confirmed as perpetrators by the manager. Conner and Perry found a dozen phony identifiers on the suspects.
Mandie Kilgore and Stephen Croft were arrested. The District Attorney’s Office accepted charges of Fraudulent Possession of Identification Information and Possession of a Fraudulent Financial Instrument on Croft. He had an open warrant related to identification in Liberty County.
Precinct 3 Deputies credit Liberty County Sheriff’s Office for being first to issue alerts about the check scams. Chambers County Deputies had located the home of the woman driving the car from Arlan’s, Precinct 3 Deputies had confirmed that she had an open warrant in Chambers County. Acting on the warrant, two more suspects were apprehended at the trailer by federal agents. The U.S. Secret Service Office had assigned an agent to the case based on Merchant Marine and Coast Guard identifications. The feds seized computer components as evidence mounted of identity theft. Checks have been located that read as if they were from plants in Crosby, Deer Park, Baytown. Some of the identifications were of actual people at their address and dates of birth correct with altered photographs.
According to Lieutenant Ganey, “We opened a box of Cracker Jacks and found lots of treats inside. I believe this is one of those cases that just grew into a network when the suspects got away with the scam a few times and just got out of control. We believe Kilgore is the ringleader. She is the one that made the checks on her computer. The process is continuing, there is no telling how many arrests will end up as a result of this arrest. We know we have yet to find all the checks they cashed.”
Ganey reminds anyone checking identifications before accepting checks to be especially diligent. Some of the phony identifications were no more than fraudulent Texas Driver’s License of paper over a Wal-Mart Shopping Card. Many of the identifications used were phony temporary driver’s permits issued as the Department of Public Safety renews a license. The Texas Department of Public Safety is now involved in the fraudulent aspects of the case.