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Three arrested in check cashing scam in St. Helens

Courtesy of the St. Helens Police Department
Courtesy of the St. Helens Police Department
Courtesy of the St. Helens Police Department

Several residents of St. Helens and Columbia City have been arrested in connection with a counterfeit check scheme that has cost local businesses $4,200 so far. Further arrests are expected, according to an announcement by the St. Helens Police Department.

Three individuals have been arrested for using stolen account numbers, blank checks and a home computer to undertake a check-cashing scheme to defraud local businesses of thousands of dollars.

Chief Terry Moss announced on March 17 that although three arrests have been made and suspects are in custody, the investigation is ongoing.

Norman Hoag, 29, of St. Helens, was arrested on March 12, after police learned that he may have cashed fake checks using account numbers from businesses including Pacific Stainless, Anderson’s Western Supply and K&C Landscaping. Hoag is suspected of cashing those checks at the St. Helens IGA Market. Facing nine counts of Identity theft, Theft 1 and Forgery 1, Hoag’s bail is set at $171,250.

More counterfeit checks circulated in St. Helens, showing up at Wal-Mart and Safeway in St. Helens, and in Portland businesses. Further investigation identified two more suspects in the fraudulent check cashing scheme. These investigations led to the arrests of two other individuals on March 13.

On March 13, officers and detectives executed a search warrant in the 1900 block of 1st Street in Columbia City and contacted Robert Dwayne Owens, 29, and Carley Ann Mnderloh, 33. Both individuals were suspects in this case and were arrested. During service of the search warrant, officers collected evidence that suggested the printing of the checks was happening in that residence. Owens and Munderloh were lodged at the Columbia County Jail and face seven counts of Forgery 1. Owens is also charged with Unlawful Possession of Methamphetamine. His bail is set at $120,000. Munderloh’s bail is set at $105,000.

The investigation has revealed other suspects and police anticipate additional arrests, according to Chief Terry Moss.

Currently, local businesses have lost approximately $4,200, but that figure may increase as checks are returned.

“Anyone cashing payroll checks should be extra vigilant,” said Chief Terry Moss. “Even when identification is presented and the checks appear legitimate, things can go horribly wrong.”

Keep checking back at the Columbia County Buzz Examiner for news as this case progresses.