Investigations lead to fraud arrests | CraigDailyPress.com

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Investigations lead to fraud arrests

As one fraud investigation ended, another began.

Both led to the same suspect, Craig resident Scott Aaron Steckel, according to a Craig Police Department release.

The 32-year-old Steckel was arrested Wednesday and is being held in the Moffat County Jail on charges of theft, forgery, criminal possession of a forged instrument, possession of schedule 2 controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Also arrested as a result of a search warrant in an apartment on the 900 block of Yampa Ave., and in connection with the two investigations, is Tausha L. Merwin-Vesley, 26, of Craig. Merwin-Vesley is being held on charges of possession of schedule 2 controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia.

The first investigation began Jan. 9, when the Craig Police Department looked into the alleged passing of a counterfeit $100 bill at the north Kum & Go, 895 Yampa Ave.

As that investigation came to a close with the issuance of an arrest warrant for Steckel, another investigation began involving stolen and forged checks, which allegedly were being cashed after they were altered and the original amounts raised.

“The investigation quickly linked the two criminal episodes to one suspect,” the Police Department release stated.

The second investigation began after someone was contacted by a utility company, saying it had not received its payment, Police Department Lt. John Forgay said.

“They went checking and found that the check never made it there,” he said. “And when they checked with their bank, it turned out that the check had gone through, but it had been raised dramatically from what they had sent the check in.”

Forgay said three other people have come forward with similar claims.

“We anticipate it’s going to be more,” he said. “We think it maybe seven to 10. But we’re not sure because some people have not recognized what’s gone on yet.”

According to the release, numerous checks were stolen from the utilities drop box at City Market.

“They didn’t have to (break into the drop box),” Forgay said. “I had reports from people saying they put stuff in there, and envelopes were sticking out of the slot.”

Other checks reportedly were stolen from street-side mailboxes.

In today’s day and age, putting mail in home mailboxes may become risky, Forgay said.

“Today, with identity theft and fraud going on, our recommendation, if nothing else, is to use a drop box at the post office,” Forgay said, noting even that was broken into a couple of months ago.

Stealing from mailboxes “is going beyond the metro area, because mailboxes are easy targets because people still go out there, put their outgoing mail in and put the red flag up,” he said. “And of course, that red flag is a signal to some of these thieves that are going to take the opportunity to take the mail out and get personal information or outgoing checks. … Unfortunately, we’re getting to the point where it’s not a good idea to put your mail out in the mailbox and put the flag up.”

The cases are being referred to the District Attorney’s Office; however, the investigation is ongoing and additional charges are anticipated.

The Police Department is urging anyone who may have used a drop box for utility payments or suspects his or her mail may have been stolen to contact the Craig Police Department Investigations Unit at 826-2360.

Jerry Raehal can be contacted at 824-7031, ext. 204, or jraehal@craigdailypress.com