MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Police have arrested more than 40 people in the past year since they began investigating a counterfeiting ring authorities say has cashed $1.5 million in bogus checks at several Minneapolis banks since June.
Police said Friday the amount probably will double before their investigation is complete.
Some of the 400 checks uncovered so far have been drawn on accounts that belong to the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office, the Metropolitan Council, MediaOne and the University of Minnesota.
Police said the ring is run by a core group of 10 north Minneapolis residents, and involves about 100 members. The group obtains valid checking account and routing numbers, prints checks with a computer program and pays people to cash them, said police Lt. Dana Smyser, head of the forgery-fraud unit.
''On any given afternoon they print a couple dozen checks and cash in $15,000 to $20,000,'' he told the Star Tribune. ''Unfortunately, they're still operating and making more money as we speak.''
Over the past two weeks, authorities have dismantled five desktop computers used to make checks and have charged a woman who had been a federal fugitive for 18 months with felony theft, he said.
Sadeya Rodriguez, 21, had 23 different identification cards when arrested by police, Smyser said.
According to a criminal complaint, she said she paid a woman $150 for each check she cashed. She admitted cashing $70,000 in counterfeit checks in the Twin Cities. All of the checks linked to Rodriguez were for $750 to $850.
Smyser said the ring recruits gang members to work. He said some of the members formerly worked for the Loyd family, which operated a large stolen-check ring in the late 1990s in the Twin Cities area.
Investigators aren't looking to build cases piecemeal against individuals arrested for forgery, he said. Instead, ''we want to build a case and take out the whole network.''
The Retailers Protection Association, which was created two years ago to fight financial fraud, is helping police investigate the ring.
''This is the largest fraud ring we've worked on to date,'' said John McCullough, director of the association. ''We're going after them. If check forgery is the way you make your living, you better get out of it.''
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