APD: Employee sets up check-cashing scam

ALBANY, Ga. -- Set up a business at a local bank, cash bad checks on the empty account and life is a free ride.

Not so fast. The bill always comes due. In this case the bill is a wanted notice for theft by taking, 10 counts of theft by deception and identity fraud, an Albany Police Department news release stated.

Noel Thomas, 52, is wanted for allegedly stealing a business license off the wall at the shop where he worked and opening his own non-existent business with an account at an Albany bank. He used the license as proof of existence, said a police spokeswoman.

Once he had the account opened, which requires only a $100 deposit, Thomas went on a spending spree, using checks that would bounce, according to Capital City Bank insufficient funds notices.

The notices came to Litman Flowers & Gifts, owned by John Litman, the rightful owner of the stolen business license. Litman began getting notices of bad checks from the bank and other merchants about two weeks ago, he said.

"He (Thomas) opened a fraudulent account in my business name," Litman said. "He cashed a check for $400 and (bought) liquor at the liquor store. I don't even drink. I wouldn't buy liquor."

The bad checks could cost businesses well above $2,000 by the time all the checks are counted.

At the J.L. Litman Memorial Funeral Home, the stack of claims on the bogus account includes a $150 bad check bill for a purse and shoes Thomas bought his girlfriend at the Albany Mall, a bad check for $1,000 made out to Alltel wireless and others.

An even odder envelope from Jones International University of Centennial Co. contained a federal Form 1098-T addressed to Thomas. The tax form states Thomas had a scholarship or grant last year to the online university for $4,682.

A spokesman for the university would say only that for student information, Thomas would have to sign a release form.

James Brown, the manager of Capital City Bank, would not discuss the alleged fraud. He would say only that he was "not at liberty to discuss it."

Officers with the Albany Financial Crimes Unit would like anyone who knows the whereabouts of Thomas, described as 5 feet, 8 inches tall and weighing 180 pounds, to call the unit at (229) 431-3288 or call Crime Stoppers.

Officers are also gathering more bad checks in the case of Alicia Nicole Blake, 29, who was arrested Jan. 31 on three counts of forgery.

Financial crimes officers are informing businesses that Blake could have passed more forged checks. Blake used a phony name on the checks.

If anyone has a check from Blake, they are asked to call Albany police at (229) 431-3288, Crime Stoppers at (229) 436-TIPS (8477) or investigations at (229) 431-3288. The Spanish speaking APD-COP Tip Line is (229) 434-2677.