The Associated Press
SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- A counterfeit check ring that cashed at least
$300,000 in bad checks at banks and stores across South Texas has
been busted by state and federal authorities.
The ring involved at 11 people, including 10 from San Antonio,
authorities said Wednesday.
"To this date, there have been over 350 counterfeit checks passed in
the South Texas area," Secret Service agent Mark Vandervlugt wrote in
a criminal complaint affidavit. "The approximate fraud loss is
$250,000 and climbing."
The ring used faked identification to cash the bogus checks at mostly
at H-E-B stores or Bank of America branches in cities including
Kerrville and San Antonio, according to federal court records.
The group was led by Steve Edward Benson, whose real name is Timothy
Jerome Luke, authorities said.
Luke, 46, has an extensive criminal history dating back to 1978. He
served 57 months in federal prison for a 1991 bank fraud conviction
and was convicted of possessing counterfeit checks while on
supervised release from prison, records show.
Authorities said Texas Rangers found several counterfeit drivers'
licenses and blank check stock at Luke's South Side San Antonio home
during a Feb. 27 search.
The seizure was connected to a January traffic stop in which Kleberg
County sheriff's deputies found 20 fake Dillard's payroll checks, 20
counterfeit South Carolina drivers' licenses and 20 phony temporary
Texas drivers' licenses.
The other suspects were identified as Erika Lopez of Corpus Christi,
age unavailable; Abel B. Garcia, 29; Gerard Segura, 30; Brenda Yvette
Torres Amaya, 22; Debra Michelle Carrillo, 23; Dorothy Ann Ybarra,
23; Jennifer Lee Arnold, 23; Dorelia Carreon Nava, 27; Dedra Adrianna
Tapia, 27; and Fatima Marian Bustos, 26.
Each were charged with possessing or passing counterfeit checks, and
face up to 10 years in prison, if convicted.
The women were released on bond last week, but the men were ordered
held without bail.
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They will be prosecuted in Corpus Christi, where the federal charges