Published December 06 2012
Forged check suspect: I was recruited at homeless shelter
“They made me do it,” Anthony Francis Santo allegedly told police before explaining how he and Justin Scott Barr had been approached in the shelter on Nov. 29 or 30 by a man identified only as Diondre, according to the complaint filed in Clay County District Court.
The alleged scheme was foiled Tuesday when Santo, who already had cashed a $6,841 check at the State Bank of Hawley in Hawley, tried to do the same thing at the bank’s Moorhead branch about 10 to 15 minutes after Barr had been there and cashed a check on the same account, the complaint states.
Barr’s whereabouts are unknown, and a warrant was issued for his arrest. He is charged with two counts of felony check forgery and one count of conspiracy to commit check forgery.
Santo, 28, faces the same conspiracy charge, three counts of check forgery and one count of attempted check forgery. He was being held in the Clay County Jail. His bail was set Thursday at $10,000 with conditions or $15,000 without.
According to the complaint:
Moorhead police were called to investigate a fraudulent checks report at 5:37 p.m. Tuesday at the bank branch at 3004 14th St. S.
The suspect, Santo, was still standing at the drive-up station when police arrived. After his arrest, he allegedly told police that he and Barr, 31, had agreed to take checks to different banks in Minnesota towns and cities. He said they had been to Detroit Lakes, Hawley, Fergus Falls, Alexandria and St. Cloud.
Santo said they were dropped off at the banks to cash checks in amounts between $6,000 and $8,000. He said they provided their own ID, got the cash and were then picked up by Diondre and a number of his unknown associates.
Moorhead police learned that Alexandria police had encountered a similar issue within the past day or two and had arrested three people for issuing fraudulent checks at two banks there.
Records obtained from State Bank of Hawley showed that a $6,841 check, signed by J.E.S. and listing a Moorhead business address, was made payable to Santo. He was identified as having cashed it at the Hawley branch.
Barr then allegedly tried to cash a second check on the same account at the Hawley branch. But the branch didn’t have enough money to cover the check, so Barr was sent to the Moorhead branch.
Barr cashed the $7,156 check at the Moorhead branch. About 10 to 15 minutes later, Santo tried to pass a $7,248 check on the same account at the same location, but by that time the Moorhead branch had received word from the Hawley branch to be on the lookout for the two men.
Bank employees stalled Santo’s transaction until police arrived.
Assistant County Attorney Lori Conroy said the case remains under investigation and she couldn’t discuss details beyond what was in the complaint.
Each of the criminal charges is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528
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