Lincoln Police: 3 women forged $19,000 in checksLincoln Police say three Florida women arrested on suspicion of forging more than $19,000 in bad checks around town may be part of a roaming group of thieves targeting the Midwest.
By: The Associated Press, Superior Telegram
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Lincoln Police say three Florida women arrested on suspicion of forging more than $19,000 in bad checks around town may be part of a roaming group of thieves targeting the Midwest.
Lincoln Police Officer Katie Flood said the women were caught after a high-speed chase Monday ended with a crash that sent five people to hospitals.
Erica Maria Martinez and Britney Nicole Baker, both of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Jennifer L. Lumpkin of Tamarac, Fla., were arrested after being released from the hospital. They each are charged with nine counts of felony forgery.
Check-forging schemes like the one police believe the women were involved in are driving up the number of forgeries in Lincoln significantly this year. Police say the number of forgeries in Lincoln is up more than 45 percent through the first five months of 2012.
Details of the charges against Martinez, 29; Baker, 19; and Lumpkin, 43, weren't immediately available in online court records Thursday, so it was not immediately clear whether the women had lawyers.
Police believe the women were part of the "Felony Lane Gang." Thieves in the gang steal checks and IDs from cars, and then recruit women to pass bad checks at banks. Similar incidents have been reported in Minnesota, Kansas, Iowa, Wisconsin and Oklahoma, Flood said.
Elm Grove, Wis., Police Lt. Jason Hennen said groups will travel the Midwest for a couple weeks passing bad checks and seem to target smaller, community banks because they don't share information as quickly as large corporate banks do.
Hennen said the men in these groups are often the professional thieves who steal the checks and IDs, which is usually a misdemeanor. They often recruit women to pass forged checks at banks and commit felonies in return for a share of the take.
In the latest case in Lincoln, a teller working at a Union Bank and Trust branch in southeast Lincoln recognized the women because police had warned banks that a woman driving a silver Chevrolet Equinox already had passed several bad checks Monday.
Lincoln Police tried to stop the SUV, but abandoned the chase after exceeding 70 mph during a brief chase. Nebraska State Patrol picked up the chase when troopers spotted the Equinox near Interstate 80.
The pursuit ended after the Equinox ran a red light and hit an SUV.