Six charged in forgery ring

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 3, 2008

NATCHEZ — Forged check complaints that Natchez police began receiving in July have expanded half a dozen arrest, with many more expected.

While six arrests have already been made, police are expecting dozens more.

“Once the smoke clears on this, it wouldn’t surprise me if there’s 30 or 40 people involved,” Natchez Police Investigator Gary Nations said.

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The first arrest in the case opened the door to all the others, thanks to the cooperation of the suspect, Nations said.

The suspects cooperation gave police insight into the inner workings of the operation and its magnitude.

The checks, which are usually payroll checks but are sometime personal checks, have legitimate routing and bank account numbers and are printed on actual check stock. Police suspect the checks are being cashed at Wal-Marts and casinos within a 100-mile radius of Natchez.

However, the case extends far beyond the borders of Mississippi and Louisiana.

The checks originate in Atlanta and are mailed to post offices stretching from eastern Texas to Virginia, Nations said.

One package was intercepted by local and federal authorities and contained 60 checks, ranging from $500 to $1,400. These packages had been coming in every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

“If they were doing that level of criminal activity for a year it would be in the neighborhood of $1,000,000,” Nations said. “This is the biggest forgery case I’ve seen in 19 years. The person printing these checks is a professional.”

The suspects are being charged with conspiracy because their names were already on the checks, meaning they had a plan to cash them, and a connection with the operation, Nations said.

The checks are being sent to local distributors, who give them out to those who cashchecks. While the checks do have the name of the person cashing them, they have other addresses and they use various IDs to cash them, Nations said.

As the case pans out, Nations said various local, state and federal authorities will want the suspects.

The six suspects arrested Thursday are Salise N. Calcate, 26, 601 Old Washington Road, on charges of conspiracy to possess forged instruments with intent to utter.

Cornelius C. Arbuthnot, 21, 576 Lower Woodville Road, on charges of conspiracy to commit a forgery with intent and burglary.

Eddie L. Long, 25, 14 Vaughn Drive, on charges of conspiracy to commit a forgery.

James E. Banks, 18, 33 N. Commerce St. on charges of conspiracy to utter a forgery.

Cynthia B. Graves, 43, 220 Oakland Drive, on charges of conspiracy to utter a forgery.

India Nelson, 22, 9B Lincoln St., on charges of conspiracy to commit a forgery.