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Man charged in check scheme

February 13, 2002

Man charged in check scheme



By DAVE McMILLION / Staff Writer, Charles Town


MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A Bunker Hill, W.Va., man was charged with eight offenses after police uncovered an alleged scheme in which merchandise was being purchased with fabricated checks made on a computer, the Berkeley County Sheriff's Department said.

Mark Steele, 43, of 3310 Middleway Pike, has been charged with two counts of felony false pretense, four counts of misdemeanor false pretense and two counts of taking the identity of another, said Berkeley County Magistrate Court records.

Steele was being held in the Eastern Regional Jail Monday night on $40,000 bond, jail officials said.

Although police were not sure how the checks were being manufactured, one theory was that legitimate checks may have been scanned into a computer and then altered, said Lt. K.C. Bohrer of the Berkeley County Sheriff's Department.

The checks used several different names, Bohrer said.

Bohrer said he has discovered six checks that were used to purchase more than $3,000 worth of merchandise from the Martinsburg, W.Va., Wal-Mart and there are 10 more checks investigators are aware of.

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Not only did the checks made out to Wal-Mart carry false names, but were drawn on checking accounts that didn't exist, said Bohrer.

The sheriff's department began investigating after they were informed about the operation by a confidential informant, said Bohrer. The informant told police that the merchandise that was obtained through the checks was either kept or returned to the retailer for cash, said court records.

The confidential informant also alleged that he had sold some of the merchandise to pawn shops for Steele, court records said.

Bohrer on Feb. 4 obtained a search warrant for Steele's house where he said he found a computer, printer, printing paper, CD-ROMs and computer programs.

Conviction on a felony false pretense charge carries a maximum prison term of 10 years. Conviction on a misdemeanor false pretense charge carries a maximum punishment of up to one year in jail. Conviction on a charge of taking the identity of another has a maximum five-year prison term.

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