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Checks Stolen from Utility Company Popping Up Around Central Arkansas

Police are on the hunt for thieves running an elaborate scheme of stealing checks and cashing out on a fraudulent pay day. It has a water utility company asking its customers to watch their bank accounts after the checks were stolen from its mailbox.
BENTON, AR - Southwest/Salem Water Users LLC. in Saline County covers more than 9,000 customers around Saline County.

Checks originally written out to them are now showing up in banks across Central Arkansas but under different names.

Police say thieves stole stacks of checks from a mail box belonging to Water Users in Benton. They say it likely happened when the offices closed during inclement weather last Friday (12/6).

The checks were initially written to the utility company but now they're being cashed elsewhere and under different names.

Janet Gentry says her bank called her this week when someone tried to clear a suspicious check. It was for much more than she wrote it out for.

"My check was written for $74 - my water bill - and they tried to write it for like over $1,900," Gentry explained. "[It's] very frustrating when you work hard. It's easy for someone to steal. It's a lot harder to get out and get a job."

The check was also no longer made out to who she intended.

"They are possibly altering or basically forging the checks," added Benton Police Department (BPD) Spokesperson, Lt. Kevin Russell.  "It's extremely serious because any time you take something like that out of a mailbox, for one, you could potentially face a federal offense."

BPD has potential suspects in the case who they say stole the checks and have tried to cash or deposit the fraudulent checks at multiple banks around Central Arkansas.

The bank caught Gentry's checks but they weren't the only ones stolen.

She said, "I just wondered how many more checks were out there."

Southwest/Salem Water Users suggest all customers who recently mailed in checks keep a close eye on their accounts.

If it was sent to the utility company last Wednesday or Thursday and the check clears, you may want to take a closer look.
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