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Large, sophisticated check fraud scheme busted by Hamilton County prosecutors

Over four months in 2020, the schemers allegedly stole $65,000 from banks including Fifth Third.
Published: Jul. 23, 2021 at 9:47 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 25, 2021 at 11:16 AM EDT
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CINCINNATI (WXIX) - The Hamilton County Prosecutor’s Office has cracked a unique and sophisticated check fraud ring that targeted Fifth Third Bank and Wesbanco, a West Virginia-based bank holding company.

The accused ring leaders used a new technique called “card cracking” against the bank.

Hamilton County Prosecutor Andy Berghuasen says it’s relatively unheard of at this scale.

“This is the first time that we’ve seen this many old checks, stolen checks, original account checks being used to commit this type of fraud,” he said.

Desco Strickland and Skylor Franklin are the accused ring leaders.

Berghausen says they recruited people on social media by telling them they could make money. They would then have the recruits deposit old or stolen checks in increments of up to $6,000.

Once deposited, Strickland and Franklin allegedly had the recruits take out the maximum amount allowed by the bank before the check clears, typically around $500 at a time.

The scheme lasted September-December 2020.

“The losses were like $65,000, but the total amount of the fraudulent deposits was actually closer to $200,000,” Berghausen said.

The prosecutor says banks caught on quickly and flagged the account numbers on the checks being used.

When the accused ringleaders had a recruit try to deposit a check, the teller called the police, who showed up and found the pair sitting outside.

“In the car with them, [police] found multiple checkbooks and multiple ATM and debit cards linked to a lot of the accounts that were being compromised in this fraud,” Berghausen said.

Strickland and Franklin face a significant amount of jail time if convicted on their charges.

“They’re looking at 10 to 20 years in this particular indictment,” Berghausen said.

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