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Interagency Investigation Leads to Arrest of 7 People Related to Counterfeit Check Cashing Investigation
07/25/2011
Lieutenant Jerry Palmer
Lincoln City Police Department
(541) 994-1466

Photograph links valid 30 days - Source: Lincoln County Sheriff's Office
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An interagency investigation into the cashing of counterfeit payroll checks at Chinook Winds Casino has led to the arrest of seven people on various charges in Lincoln County. Investigators estimate the counterfeit check operation netted more than $20,000, in large part related to the use and purchase of methamphetamine.
 
On July 17, 2011 the Lincoln City Police Department requested the help of the interagency Lincoln Interagency Narcotics Team (LINT) following the arrest of a 47-year old CLAUDIA STARKEY from Beaverton after she cashed a counterfeit payroll check at Chinook Winds Casino. The woman cashed one of several $2,000 plus forged checks that various persons started cashing at the casino starting mid-June. STARKEY was also in possession of a small quantity of methamphetamine.
 
With information developed during this initial investigation, LINT detectives and Lincoln City police officers identified several potential suspects including two men identified as MICHAEL JAMES TATUM, age 48, from Depoe Bay, and ROSS STANLEY HAYWARD, age 37, from Lincoln City. TATUM and HAYWARD were identified as the persons responsible for manufacturing counterfeit checks. The computer-generated counterfeit checks used information obtained by TATUM and HAYWARD through several mail thefts around the area.
 
On July 19, the ongoing investigation led LINT detectives, with the assistance of Lincoln City Police Department, Lincoln County Sheriff's Office, and a U.S. Postal Service Inspector, to execute the first of several search warrants. Investigators served the first search warrant at TATUM's Depoe Bay residence located at 515 Melody Street where they found evidence of the check forging operation including computer equipment used to make the counterfeit checks, suspected stolen mail, and a quantity of methamphetamine.
 
Later that evening, detectives executed a second search warrant at 2530 NE 31st Street #15 in Lincoln City where HAYWARD and KELLI RUST, age 28, reside. Investigators located further evidence of the check forging operation, a large amount of cash, and a quantity of methamphetamine. A small child was removed from the home and taken into protective custody.
 
Up to this point in the investigation, TATUM and HAYWARD were arrested and lodged in the Lincoln County Jail on the following charges:
 
HAYWARD
* Theft in the First Degree (5 counts)
* Forgery in the First Degree (5 counts)
* Felony Criminal Conspiracy (2 counts)
* Unlawful Possession of a Controlled Substance - Methamphetamine
 
TATUM
* Theft in the First Degree (5 counts)
* Forgery in the First Degree (5 counts)
* Felony Criminal Conspiracy (2 counts)
* Unlawful Possession, Distribution and Manufacture of a Controlled Substance - Methamphetamine
 
A third search warrant was executed at a residence located at 4665 Johns Avenue in Neotsu. The investigation indicated HAYWARD had access to this residence to hide currency obtained from the counterfeit check operation. Detectives found a large amount of cash at this location.
As the investigation continued, detectives learned numerous people were "recruited" to cash the forged checks at Chinook Winds Casino. Each person was paid a portion of the money after the counterfeit checks were cashed.
 
On July 21, investigators and officers from LINT, Lincoln City Police Department and Lincoln County Sheriff's Office arrested three more people allegedly involved in cashing counterfeit checks. JULIE ANN GILBERT, age 55, from Lincoln City; JOHN MICHAEL MENDIOLA, age 32, from Lincoln City; and, GINA ELAYNE MARION, age 40, from Lincoln City, were arrested for:
 
* Forgery in the First Degree
* Unlawful Possession of a Forged Instrument
* Theft in the First Degree
 
LINT and Lincoln City Police Department are continuing the investigation and anticipate more arrests.
 
The interagency LINT team is comprised of members from the Lincoln County Sheriff's Office, Lincoln City Police Department, Oregon State Police, and the Lincoln County District Attorney's Office.