TEMPE, Ariz. -- Tempe police say 49 people have been arrested and are facing multiple felony charges for participating in a fraud scheme to cash forged checks at Valley stores.
During an eight-month investigation dubbed "Operation Check Out," more than 50 people were identified attempting to cash forged checks at Food City, Wal-Mart and 7-Eleven stores across the Valley.
The major players in this investigation have been identified as Duane Robert Rogers, 48, Kenneth Robert Schreiner, 41, Michelle Elizabeth Metting, 26, and Patricia Louise Loeffler, 42.
Detectives said that Rogers and Schreiner were the ring leaders and check printers. Metting and Loeffler were part of the support system and recruited the other suspects involved in the ring.
In some instances, the account information on the fraudulent checks came from employer paychecks, according to Tempe police Sgt. Steve Carbajal. He said other fake checks were created from account information purchased from criminals stealing uncollected or unshredded mail, a practice known as "mail box rips."
"Recognizing that the cost of crime is ultimately passed on to consumers, this type of criminal activity negatively impacts our entire community," said Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery.
Individuals charged in the operation are facing multiple fraud counts that carry possible prison terms ranging from two to seven years.
The investigation is continuing and Carbajal said more arrests could be made.
The operation was a cooperative effort of the Tempe Police Department, the check processing firm Certegy, and the Fraud and Identity Theft Enforcement (FITE) bureau of the Maricopa County Attorney's Office.