Liberty Township’s fiscal officer says she believes a forged-check scam was done online but is suspicious that someone knew that the township had recently received a large sum of tax revenue from Delaware County.
Fiscal officer Nancy Denutte said she believes the forgery — a check in the amount of $134,000 — occurred completely online. “I don’t think it’s anybody that works for us,” she said.
Yet she said she finds the timing of the forgery to be suspicious because the township had just received a large deposit to the account. “Somebody knew about the amount of money in the account,” Denutte said.
Delaware County Bank apparently cleared the $134,000 forged check written against Liberty Township’s bank account, according to Denutte.
The check was made out to a used-car dealer in Great Britain, Saunders Abbott, in Sidcup near London and processed through the Royal Bank of Scotland.
Andrew Neilson, media relations manager for the Royal Bank of Scotland, said it’s standard procedure to hold funds on foreign checks until they are cleared by the issuing bank. Liberty Township’s bank account is with Delaware County Bank.
The Delaware County Bank has not returned calls from The Gazette seeking comment.
Denutte said she discovered the forged check while reconciling the township’s account. “It was real simple,” she said Friday. “I got a bogus check.”
Denutte said she called the Delaware County Bank immediately upon finding the check. Because it was late in the day, bank representatives waited until the next day to follow up on the claim. “They came right over first thing in the morning,” Denutte said Friday. “They handled it quickly.”
The day after the bank came to the township offices, the $134,000 was credited to the township’s account. “The money was back in our account the next day,” Denutte said.
Since discovering the forgery, the township now uses “Positive Pay,” a service of the Delaware County Bank. “If we had ‘Positive Pay’ in place, the check would have never cleared,” Denutte said.
At a glance, the forged check looked authentic and included the signatures of all three township trustees and that of former township fiscal officer Mark Gerber, Denutte said earlier in the week.
“The check number was one that we haven’t even gotten up to (in the sequence),” Denutte said. She confirmed Friday that the township has not yet ordered checks in a numerical range consistent with the forged check.
An Ohio Bankers League spokesman said Thursday that the forged check is “unusual” for crimes of this type.
Typically check fraud consists of stolen checks or manipulated copies that have been cashed, said James Thurston, vice president of public relations of the Ohio Bankers League. “These criminals are becoming more sophisticated,” he said. “There seems to be a lot of moving parts to this one and, since the case involves the (United Kingdom), it’s a complex case.”
The Gazette called Saunders Abbott in Sidcup on Friday and a man who identified himself as a mechanic said: “Management is on holiday this week. Call back Monday.”
The Delaware County Sheriff’s Office has been involved in the case since May 3 when deputies were called to township offices in Powell.
“We reached out to the Department of Justice who reaches out to Interpol — the International Criminal Police Organization,” said Tracy Whited, public information officer for the Delaware County Sheriff’s Office. “Our part is done other then handing over the evidence.”
“My gut says, stay in touch with law enforcement and let it run its course,” Thurston said Friday. “They’ll follow the money.”