Wednesday, February 6, 2013
An alleged con man is still working his way across Kansas, pretending to be a police officer and attempting to cash fake checks.
Robert Helms is suspected of trying to cash fake checks as recently as Friday in western Kansas. The financial crime spree is causing businesses to be even more careful about cashing checks.
Many of the businesses Helms has allegedly preyed upon have been small, locally owned businesses in small communities. However, a manager of a Park City grocery store says he will not have much luck if he shows up there.
"We do a lot of payroll checks," said Susan Cruz, a manager of Leeker's Foods.
However, she said, the store will not cash every check.
"They have to be local," she said. "The person needs to live here in Park City or the north end of Wichita or else the business is here local."
The Kansas Bureau of Investigation believes Helms has shown up at 23 businesses across Kansas since the first of the year. In most cases, the suspect has flashed a police badge and attempted to cash what appear to be payroll checks. All of the checks have had the names of Kansas banks on them.
"It would appear he has a very good quality printer and good paper stock," KBI Deputy Director Kyle Smith said. "The checks are fake, but they're excellent-quality fakes."
Cruz said at Leeker's, employees look closely for things on checks that do not seem quite right and they will not hesitate to turn someone away.
"Occasionally, you'll have some (checks) that things don't match up," she said. "Their ID and the check or ZIP codes don't match the area that the check is from or something."
She said it is also important for businesses to notify each other of any red flags.
"We'll call and say, 'Just had someone in with such and such a company. I don't think it's good,'" Cruz said. "If they've hit four or five different places trying to cash it, chances are it's probably not."
Smith said red flags should also go up if anybody enters a business and flashes a police badge before asking for a check.
"A real police officer would not be using his badge for identification to pass a check," he said.
When someone identifies himself or herself as a law enforcement officer, Smith said, it is okay to ask to see the badge.
"Their badge will also have what are called credentials," he said. "The credentials will be signed by the lead authority. It'd be the sheriff or the chief or the director of the KBI. They'll have a photograph on there."
The KBI says Helms should be considered armed and dangerous and anybody who knows where he is or anyone who sees him should call 911 immediately.