ALBANY -- Two Dougherty County residents led a ring of thieves that targeted elderly and low-income residents who receive Social Security and other government checks, officials said.
Willie Bob Stevens, 37, and Alfreda Shelton, 38, are wanted in connection with running a crew that steals government checks, alters the check value and then cashes the higher value checks, law enforcement officials said.
Warrants were issued on felony charges of forgery and theft by deception, said Dougherty County Police Capt. Jim Sexton
"We would like the public's assistance in locating Mr. Stevens," Sexton said. "He is basically the ringleader of the group."
Police would also like the public to help them locate Shelton, Stevens' cousin, who is believed to be another crew ringleader, said Albany police Cpl. Catoa Baldwin.
The investigation into the crimes is a cooperative effort between county police, the Albany Police Department and the Dougherty County Sheriff's Office.
The crew would steal government checks out of mailboxes, usually the way elderly and low-income people receive their social security payments, Sexton said. Then the ringleaders would change the amount on the checks.
Stevens and Shelton are believed to have recruited others to cash the checks for them, Sexton said. Their crew could have many people cashing checks.
One check was for a payment of $103, it was stolen and altered to $9,243 and then cashed, Sexton said. The estimated amount the checks have netted the crew rings up at about $54,000.
So far there are six victims in Albany police jurisdiction, Baldwin said.
County police have one. There was no estimate of how many people, victims or criminals were involved in the scheme, he added.
The Albany police investigation started at about the same time as the other agencies started theirs, the second week in December, Baldwin added.
One suspect in the crew was arrested, said sheriff's Lt. Anita Allen.
The suspect is in jail, but Allen would not divulge a name.
The case is still under investigation and police continue to seek others, Allen said.
"All the cases are linked together," Allen said. "This person (who was arrested) is involved."
Anyone with additional information about the case and the wanted suspects should call Crime Stoppers at (229) 436-TIPS (8477) or (229) 431-3288.