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Police: Fraud cases on rise in county

June 06, 2005|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

WASHINGTON COUNTY - People using stolen checks or prescription forms is starting to become an increasing problem in Washington County.

Washington County Sheriff's Department Capt. Douglas Mullendore and Deputy James Sword said last week that fraud involving the theft and use of bank checks and false prescription orders has taken up a lot of time for some law enforcement officers.

Sword said the department is getting 20 to 25 reports per month from people who say they have been defrauded in some way. In past years, the department would receive five to six reports in a month, he said.

Mullendore said he could not pinpoint a particular factor causing the increase, though drug use and people's desire for material items are among the most likely reasons, he said.

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Mullendore said the drug problem, which has driven many burglaries and fraud/theft incidents in the county, is possibly being compounded with the peer pressure that youths face.

"You know, with everybody needing an iPod or custom sneakers or everything their peers have, they have a tendency to shoplift those items or steal those items to get them. Peer pressure for those items is tremendous," Mullendore said.

Sword said prescription fraud, especially incidents involving Vicodin and OxyContin, is becoming an increasing problem. He said many of those involved in these cases are taking prescription slips from family members or stealing them directly from doctors' offices.

"It's becoming almost as common as spotting a pipe or dope on somebody," Sword said.

Sword said many of the investigations are time-consuming and tracking down some of those committing fraud often is "a nightmare."

"They're just all over the place. It's taking up a lot of man hours," Sword said.

Sword said one particularly tough fraud case that he has been investigating since March involves a victim who is employed at a business on Oak Ridge Drive in Hagerstown.

Sword said thousands of dollars have been spent through the use of more than 20 checks that are believed to have been stolen while the victim was working at the business. He said at least $3,000 to $4,000 of the purchases were made with the stolen checks at Wal-Mart stores in Hagerstown, Chambersburg, Pa. and Martinsburg, W.Va.

The victim, Rachael McCarty, of Mercersburg, Pa., said the incident has been a tremendous headache for her. She has had to speak with numerous bank representatives and creditors, she said.

McCarty, 21, said she is starting to believe that "you can't really trust anybody now."

"I have a small child, and it's not easy starting out," she said. "I just hate a thief, someone who can't work for themselves."

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