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Sheriff probes cashed bogus McDuffie County payroll checks

McDuffie County Sheriff Logan Marshall has launched a criminal investigation into a possible counterfeit check scheme involving the county government as the victim.

At least two possibly counterfeit checks were written in the amounts of about $950 each and subsequently cashed at the Regions Bank on Washington Road in Thomson last Friday, The McDuffie Mirror has learned.

In a third case, another payroll check was attempted to be cashed at a Regions Bank location in the Grovetown area of Columbia County, according to McDuffie County Manager Don Norton. The person attempting to cash the check there was unable to complete the transaction.

McDuffie County Finance Director Jimmy Whitaker first learned of the fraudulent incidents on Friday afternoon after being contacted by officials with Regions Bank. Mr. Norton said he was then contacted by Mr. Whitaker before notifying each of the county commissioners.

"It's early in the investigation and all I can say right now is that an investigation is underway," Sheriff Marshall said following a conversation with Mr. Whitaker at his office on Monday afternoon.

The sheriff said he first thought the checks had been stolen, but he since has learned that the checks may be counterfeit. He said he could not be sure if any more than three such checks existed until he gets further into the investigation.

The conversation with the finance director followed one that Sheriff Marshall had with Gary Nicholson, special agent in-charge of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation about the GBI possibly looking into the case. During that meeting, Sheriff Marshall said it was decided he would look into the case himself, since the GBI currently has so many ongoing investigations.

During a brief special county commissioner's meeting to discuss another matter at noon on Monday, McDuffie County Commission Chairman Charlie Newton was vague in discussing the issue.

Mr. Newton began by saying there had been fraudulent activity reported from the finance department and "that's really all I want to say at this time."

He pointed out that to say more at this time might hinder the ability of authorities to catch the person responsible.

An initial report of the incident was taken from Mr. Whitaker by Sgt. Jammie Smith of the Thomson Police Department. Sheriff Marshall said he received a copy of it Monday afternoon.

Web posted on Thursday, January 01, 2009

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