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Worldwide Scam Using Fake ODOT Checks
04/01/2008
Patrick Cooney
ODOT Public Affairs
Office: (503) 986-3455
 
Lieutenant Gregg Hastings
Public Information Officer
Office: (503) 731-3020 ext. 247

Altered checks purportedly issued by the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) are being used as part of an international money laundering scheme.  
 
Citizens are contacted through the Internet and asked by email to represent a Dr. David Owen in the United States. The contact promises to arrange for checks to be sent to the person, who in turn will cash them, keep ten percent, and wire transfer the balance according to further instructions.
 
Several phony ODOT checks actually have been cashed; checks have shown up in North Carolina, Florida, New York, California, Minnesota and Michigan.
 
“These are not stolen or real checks,” said Clay Flowers, ODOT acting Financial Operations Manager. “It looks like someone took an old check and cut and pasted, while keeping some elements the same.”
 
The amounts on the phony checks vary from $45,787.20 to $145,787.20 and have former deputy director Mike Marsh as the authorizing official. The word ‘Capitol’ in the address is misspelled (‘Capiitaol’) and there are other alterations, including the spelling of ‘checque,’ the date, the absence of the department logo, altered security wording and the removal of the ODOT Financial Services telephone number.
 
Financial institutions should be aware of this scam and report attempts to cash the checks to law enforcement.
 
The Oregon Department of Justice (DOJ) warns Oregonians that participation in this scheme could cause them to be liable for repaying the financial institution and in some cases, they could be charged criminally for possession of a counterfeit check.
 
“International Money Transfer Schemes” is number three on the DOJ Top 10 Consumer Complaint List for 2007 with more than 800 Oregon residents reporting the scam. DOJ investigators suggest that those receiving the proposals inform the suspects by email that they are turning over the matter to law enforcement. DOJ adds that any contact with the suspects should be made by email only and not by calling overseas telephone numbers with expensive toll charges connected to them.
 
Official checks from the Oregon Department of Transportation have a number of security features, including watermarks. The fake checks do not.
 
“Anyone can easily verify the validity of an ODOT check by calling 503-986-3900,” Flowers said.