Even the Winnebago County jail, which houses criminals, can be bit by criminal fraud. The sheriff's department has charged two men with different types of identity theft. But here's the catch - authorities say the suspected crimes started from the routing numbers on the county's own jail checks.
"Every time a citizen out there hands a check to somebody, everybody that handles that check has access to the same information that this gentleman used to manipulate the system," Winnebago County Sheriff Richard Meyers said.
Investigators are charging 26-year-old Larry Gulley Jr. with computer fraud. He's suspected to have stolen $74,000 from a credit card company across several months - using unauthorized routing numbers as his alibi. He's isn't alone. Authorities also charged 32-year-old Christopher Sarnecke with forgery. Investigators say Sarnecke spent three weeks illegally producing and printing out altered checks - before a video camera caught the suspect in the act.
"He went on the computer and created a check and entered that account number, routing number, and put different names up on front, and then went out to the stores to cash the check and buy the merchandise," Meyers said.
In wake of these separate fraud charges, Meyers pleads for citizens to protect their accounts, and their identities. He advises you to keep a watchful eye on your spending history, and make sure wandering eyes don't pick up your account number.
"As technology grows, it brings with it new capabilities. A lot of those capabilities are great for society, some of them are misused," Meyers said.
Meyers says the Winnebago County State's Attorney office could upgrade the charges on Larry Gulley Jr. Both men, if convicted, could face prison time.