FlashCard Fraud: Counterfeit scheme funneled thousands in fake checks to university debit accounts



Rex Santus

Almost $24,000 in counterfeit checks fueled a local fraud ring’s FlashCard spending spree over three weeks in 2011, according to federal court documents.

In addition to the FlashCard accounts, the same group — including at least two Kent State students — spent about $6,000 in bad checks at the Kent State bookstore.

The ring also created false checks that appeared to be issued by institutions such as the University of Akron and Genesis Childcare and Development, an Akron daycare, records say. The group would then pay one of its at least 35 “runners” to negotiate checks at Wal-Mart and other locations. Runners were paid anywhere from $75 to $500 to cash checks, and ringleaders pocketed the rest of the money.

The total amount negotiated through counterfeit checks — not including transactions connected to Kent State — came to almost $26,500.

Tameka Orr, also known as Tameka McMillan or Mieka, led the group that prosecutors say used “fraudulent transactions to their personal use and benefit.”

Also named in the indictment, all of Akron: Valerie Hargrove, Bernice Moore (aka Bernice Stiggers), Jasmine Hooks (a runner) and Derrick Whatley.

“We don’t have any details for you on us as a party or victim of this lawsuit,” Kent State spokesman Eric Mansfield said. “What I can tell you is when the university became aware of the suspicious activity, it was reported to the federal authorities, including the Secret Service, who conducted the investigation.”

Orr, who was a student at Kent State, and others obtained the routing numbers and account information of Akron Auto Auction Inc., a car auctioning company and Computer City, a computer repair store. They used those details to create counterfeit checks made payable to Kent State, the documents say.

The group then funneled that money into two FlashCard accounts — one in Orr’s name and another held by an individual identified by prosecutors only as “J.R.”

“We cannot release any information about anyone by that name,” Mansfield said when asked about Tameka Orr.

The ring used the fraudulent FlashCards at least 30 times, according to court records, and the single-trip transactions ranged from purchases of $3.29 (at Sheetz) to $1,306.97 (also at Sheetz).

Orr and the others targeted a CVS store more than half the time, spending exactly $1,009.90 with their FlashCards on most visits, often several times per day.

The group also used the FlashCards at Discount Drug Mart, Save-A-Lot, BP, Daily Enterprises and Flynn’s Tire and Auto Services.

“We find people running various counterfeit schemes — I don’t want to say all the time, but it happens,” said Mike Tobin, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office.

Orr, Hargrove, Moore, Hooks and Whatley are charged with conspiracy to counterfeit, Tobin said. All five defendants have posted bond — $20,000 — and the final pretrial is slated for December.

The group faces a maximum of 20 years in prison.

Contact Rex Santus at [email protected].