TEMPE, AZ - One-hundred people have been arrested in connection to multiple fraud check mills operating out of the Valley, according to authorities.
The year-and-a-half-long investigation revealed that five check fraud mill operations were being run out of Tempe and the surrounding areas, according to Sgt. Michael Pooley of the Tempe Police Department.
Pooley said that 100 people, ranging in age from 18 to 73 years old, were arrested in operation "Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself," an 18-month investigation in coordination with the Attorney General's Office.
This is the largest fraud case ever investigated by the Tempe Police Department and the largest ever prosecuted by the Arizona Attorney General's Office in terms of people arrested and indicted, said Pooley.
Authorities said at a Tuesday morning press conference that suspects stole information from rebate checks that were mailed out to customers and left unsecured. Detectives said the suspects would remove customer information from the checks left in vehicles, in trash cans or even the mailbox.
Authorities also said that major retailers were targets, such as Target, which has been the focus of a major security breach that happened during the holiday shopping season.
The scheme was pretty well-established said authorities. It involved a main person who would be in charge of printing the fake checks and recruiters who would oversee runners whose jobs were to steal the information and cash the fraudulent checks.
Detectives said the investigation also revealed a "larger hierarchy of three loosely affiliated organizations" involved in the fraud scheme, he said.
Officials estimate that over $240,000 were collectively involved in the attempted and completed fraud transactions, said Pooley.
Many of the suspects are "family members who were actively recruiting others to participate in and benefit from the criminal activity," said Pooley.