MADISON, Wis. – Eight homeless men were arrested Tuesday and charged with cashing forged checks at local credit unions and banks on behalf of what police believe is an interstate ring.

The ring apparently picked out the men were they slept, dressed them, gave them the fake checks and took most of the proceeds from them, according to police.

This week’s arrest following a conviction in federal court in Pittsburgh last month of a Georgia man who headed a ring that stole business checks from mailboxes and recruited homeless men and prostitutes in the northeast to cash them at credit unions and banks. The groups then either counterfeited or "washed" the checks and created counterfeit checks in amounts between $1,500 and $3,000.

In that case Travis Davis, 25, of Atlanta pleaded guilty to the check forging conspiracy that included three other men from Atlanta who have also pled guilty. Two are awaiting sentencing and one was sentenced to nine months in prison.

According to a criminal complaint in the Madison case, 16 counterfeit checks that were cashed were created to look like they came from Hoffman Manufacturing, a local store fixture manufacturer, and were cashed at branches of Summit CU.

Two homeless men charged in the scheme were sentenced on Nov. 15 for cashing forged checks in nearby Beaver Dam after telling police that three men driving vehicles from Georgia recruited them for what they originally believed to be a job. The men recruited six to eight homeless individuals from a park in Madison to go to Beaver Dam and La Crosse for what they called “work,” which turned out to be cashing the checks.

One of the men told police two men drove him to a store and bought him a shirt, a tie and shoes, then to Arby’s to change into the clothes, and to McDonald’s for a meal.

The checks were each written for amounts between $1,500 and $4,300, and the homeless men generally received about $300 each for cashing them.


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