GRESHAM, Ore. -- Police in Gresham cracked one of the largest check fraud cases they’ve ever seen.
They said the suspected ringleader, 37-year-old Andrew Prevost, was stealing taxpayer money that's supposed to help the state's most vulnerable families.
Police said Prevost stole $144,000 and created almost 100 legitimate-looking payroll checks. Columbia Sportswear is one of the companies they said he used as the supposed payer but that was just for show.
The money was actually coming from a Department of Human Services bank account. Prevost allegedly wrote the checks out to dozens of accomplices.
“Then he was splitting the money with the check writers, like a pyramid scheme essentially where the people below you have to pay up to the people up here,” said t. Claudio Grandjean with the Gresham Police Department.
On Thursday, police arrested Prevost. When they searched his apartment they said they recovered a lot of evidence, including the checks in question and the computer equipment to make them.
Police were working with local Walmarts, including one in Gresham where the majority of the checks were cashed.
Police are in the process of tracking other suspects down who would come to the store and cash the checks.
“Of course you don’t want to write a check for $140,000, which would raise red flags, so they’re writing checks for $500 to $2,500, which would seem like a payroll check to somebody and they are going to get cashed,” Grandjean said.
The scheme was stopped when DHS realized the money was coming out of its account. We still don't know how the account was compromised.
KGW reporter Reggie Aqui contributed to this report.