Arrests made in multi-state check cashing scam
Three individuals were arrested in connection with a fraudulent check cashing scam spanning at least four states on December 3 in Alexandria.
Alexandria police, Douglas County sheriff's deputies and Minnesota State Patrol responded to the Anytime Fitness parking lot on a suspicious activity call. While dealing with the suspects, law enforcement learned that a fraudulent check had been cashed at American National Bank, just north of the fitness center.
Javonta Elliott, 21, of Atlanta, Georgia, Elijah Zachariah Moore, 24, of Atlanta, Georgia, and William James Pierce, 39, of Brooklyn Park, Minnesota were all taken into custody. Elliot and Moore will be charged with felony labor trafficking which has a maximum sentence of 15 years imprisonment and a $30,000 fine and aiding and abetting offering a forged check which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment and a $20,000 fine. Pierce will be charged with offering a forged check which has a maximum sentence of five years imprisonment and a $10,000 fine. All three suspects are currently in custody at Douglas County Jail.
Leading up to the incident, officers responded to the American National Bank where a white male wearing a brown leather jacket, later identified as Adam E. Ostlund, had just cashed a fraudulent $6,840.12 check. There is a warrant out for Ostlund's arrest.
Bank officials said Ostlund showed a Minnesota identification card, received the money and walked out of the bank toward the Anytime Fitness parking lot. After Ostlund left, bank officials learned the check, green in color from Diversified Machine Incorporated, a St. Cloud business, was fraudulent and that other branches of American National Bank in the region including St. Cloud and Detroit Lakes had reported similar activity.
According to law enforcement, Pierce told officers that he is homeless and did not know Elliot or Moore. He said he was offered work in construction if he would travel with Elliot and Moore and since he needed the money Pierce went with the men to Super 8 in St. Cloud on December 1. At the motel, he provided his identification card and personal information to Elliot and Moore and was then told he was "on the payroll." Pierce said two other men in their 20s were also at the motel.
The following day Pierce, Elliot and Moore travelled to a homeless shelter in Minneapolis where they picked up another white male. The group made rounds to other banks in the region before heading to Alexandria.
Pierce presented a $942 check with his information on it provided by Elliot at the Alexandria Gate City Bank but the teller refused to cash the check. Police reported that Pierce said he knew it seemed wrong, but needed the money.
Pierce witnessed Elliot and Moore give Ostlund a check and gave him instructions to cash it at American National Bank, investigators said. While Ostlund was in the bank Elliot was on the phone with an individual in a lookout car. Pierce said when Ostlund exited the bank with the money, he ran into the wooded area where Elliot and Moore chased him.
The Alexandria Police Department said it has confirmed with agencies from Georgia, Louisiana, Wisconsin and in the Minneapolis/St. Paul and Moorhead areas that this group of people is traveling from Georgia to scam people with fraudulent checks.
Crystal Dey Crystal Dey is a staff reporter for the Echo Press. Originally from Minnesota's Iron Range, Dey worked for newspapers in North Dakota, Florida and Connecticut before returning to her home state to join the Echo Press in October 2011. Dey studied Mass Communications at Minnesota State University Moorhead with an emphasis in Online Journalism. Follow Staff Reporter Crystal Dey on Twitter at @CrystalDey_Echo.