PD: Tempe fraud check scheme involved stolen rebate checks from vehicles, mailboxes, trash cans

TEMPE, AZ - Detectives unveiled more details surrounding a large and elaborate fraud scheme that was operating out of Tempe and the surrounding areas.

Authorities said 100 people have been arrested in operation "Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself," an 18-month investigation in coordination with the Tempe Police Department and the Attorney General's Office.

The year-and-a-half-long investigation revealed that five check fraud mill operations were being run out of the Valley.

Officials said the fraud scheme used rebate checks sent to customers from major retailers, such as Target, to create and cash fraudulent checks.

Detectives said rebate checks were stolen by "runners" out of people's vehicles, trash bins and mailboxes.

"Identity theft protection is great, but at the end of the day you have to learn to shred, burn or keep your documents. Leaving things in plain view, like bills and checks left in your car, those things need to be brought in," said Commander Kim Hale with Tempe police.

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 Sgt. Mike Pooley.

Detectives said the investigation also revealed a "larger hierarchy of three loosely affiliated organizations" involved in the fraud scheme.

Detectives estimate the crime spree value at over $240,000 in attempted and completed fraud transactions.

Many of the suspects are "family members who were actively recruiting others to participate in and benefit from the criminal activity," said Pooley.

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