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Homeless men arrested for bogus McDuffie checks

Two homeless men have been taken into custody in connection with a check fraud case whose victim was the government of McDuffie County.

Iroyricus Thornton, of the 1900 block of Mulberry Street, Macon, was arrested on Saturday, Jan. 17, and charged with two counts of forgery in the first degree, according to McDuffie County Sheriff Logan Marshall. The charges - both felonies - were filed against Mr. Thornton after he was turned over to McDuffie County authorities following his apprehension by Macon police.

A second suspect, 38-year-old Derick Dowdell, of Atlanta, meanwhile, was arrested by Atlanta police after it was learned he was wanted on a felony warrant by McDuffie County authorities. He was taken into custody on Tuesday, Jan. 27, according to Sheriff's Investigator Larry Adaway.

Mr. Dowdell, who has been charged with one count of forgery in the first degree, since has been brought back to Thomson, where he is being held in the McDuffie County Law Enforcement Center. Mr. Thornton also is jailed there.

The two men reportedly cashed two counterfeit checks at the Regions Bank branch on Washington Road just outside Thomson last Dec. 26, Sheriff Marshall said. The checks were cashed within a short period of each other, he added.

The sheriff said Mr. Thornton cashed a check that was written out for $967.43.That check, and the one reportedly cashed for more than $900, was drawn from a payroll account belonging to McDuffie County.

A bank official recently notified local officials that they will make good on the checks - thus the county won't be out any money, according to McDuffie County Manager Don Norton.

The criminal investigation is continuing into what local authorities contend was a counterfeit operation that may involve several persons. At least one other man is being sought. Sheriff Marshall said other law enforcement authorities are involved in assisting his department because they have had similar experiences in their counties. They include Columbia and Richmond counties.

A third attempt to cash a counterfeit check, baring the name of McDuffie County, was transacted at the Regions Bank branch in Grovetown in neighboring Columbia County on the afternoon of Dec. 26. The transaction was refused, which led to a bank representative notifying McDuffie County Finance Director Jimmy Whitaker about the problem. Mr. Whitaker, in turn, reported the incident to local law enforcement authorities, which led to a probe being conducted and spearheaded by Sheriff Marshall.

Since the investigation began, Sheriff Marshall and Investigator Adaway have worked closely with Columbia County Sheriff's Department investigators in an attempt to learn the identity of the man who attempted to cash that third check.

The sheriff had told county commissioners last month that he anticipated making arrests in the case within a few days.

Authorities have learned that a number of men have been recruited from Salvation Army shelters in both Atlanta and Macon to go to Augusta in an attempt to cash counterfeit checks, Sheriff Marshall told The McDuffie Mirror. The men are promised a certain amount for every check they get cashed. The biggest portion of money goes to those leading the scam operation. The men also are provided lodging and given meals in many instances for their roles in the scam operation.

Currently, Sheriff Marshall is working with investigators with the Richmond County Sheriff's Department in an attempt to gain additional information about what they have uncovered in the counterfeit operation. Several similar arrests have been made there this year.

Web posted on Thursday, February 05, 2009

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