Liberty Township’s $134,000 forged check that was cashed by the Royal Bank of Scotland on a used-car dealer’s account in Sidcup, Great Britain, remains unsolved after several months.
Tuesday Nancy Denutte, township fiscal officer, said, “I have not heard a thing.” She said she’s not heard or seen anything from the Delaware County Bank or from law enforcement since discovering the check.
While Denutte was reconciling checks to the township’s bank statement she came across the check. “‘Who is this?’ was the big thing that came to mind,” Denutte said when she first saw the canceled check last spring.
At a glance, the forged check looked authentic and included the signatures of all three township trustees and also the signature of Mark Gerber, the former township fiscal officer.
Looking at his signature on the forged check, Gerber said it was close to that of his. “This check looks too real to me,” Gerber told The Gazette at the time. “It looks too good not to possibly be a real one.”
According to Denutte, the creation of the forged check, in the amount of $134,000, and transaction possibly had all taken place online. It’s believed the trustees’ signatures came from signed public documents on the township’s website.
“To keep it from happening again, we have taken steps to make sure it doesn’t,” Denutte said.
Even though the check does look close to the real thing, it still should have been checked on before it was cashed, says one banking expert.
“You’re not going to get a British bank easily accepting a foreign check without some sort of investigation first,” said James Thurston, vice president of public relations of the Ohio Bankers League. “There would have been some sort of verification in the (United Kingdom).”
Thurston said check fraud typically consists of stolen checks or manipulated copies that have been cashed. But this case has taken forgery to a new level, he said.
“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 UK, it’s a complex case.”
When contacted by The Gazette previously, Thurston said that “Delaware County Bank has done all the right things” in crediting the township’s account immediately.
The bank has had no further comment.
The check was cashed by the Royal Bank of Scotland who sent it to the Delaware County Bank which has the township’s account. “I contacted our bank,” Denutte said earlier. “The money was back in our account the next day.”
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.
Township officials turned the check over to the Delaware County Sheriff’s Office on May 3, which then gave it to federal authorities.
D. Anthony Botkin may be reached at 740-413-0902 or on Twitter @dabotkin.