Police Investigate Bad Check Operation

One banker said it's the largest check fraud operation ever to hit the coast. Police from Slidell to Mobile have been investigating hundreds of cases of bad checks passed over the last few months. With the holiday shopping season here, the problem may be getting worse.

Police said at least two men are going to businesses buying things like computers, furniture and even a used car; all with with checks they created on a computer. Police won't say how much the pair have stolen, but they've hit dozens of businesses up and down the coast.

The two men wanted for writing the bad checks are Tony Curtis Whigham and Jhointea Marquette Williams. The two came into Judy Parker's Boot Outlet store in Ocean Springs on Sunday.

"We verified their drivers license and their name and everything on their check, and it was met with the drivers license. I called the bank to verify the funds, because it was such a large amount, 596 dollars, and the bank verified the funds were sufficient," Boot Outlet owner Judy Parker said.

But the bank didn't cash it. It was a fake. It's a story Ocean Springs police detective John Flowers has heard from other merchants as well.

"The people that are committing these crimes will go out and obtain valid account numbers and use the valid account number and print them on fraudulent business names and so forth," Flowers said.

"As a rule the merchant who takes that check is usually the one that's going to lose on it," Bill Magnusen said.

Bill Magnusen has a file on these guys an inch thick. Magnusen is chief of security for Hancock Bank. He says in his 11 years, he's never seen someone get away with writing so many bad checks. The bank is working closely with officers to catch the suspects.

Ocean Springs Detective William Jackson is also working the case. He wants to warn merchants not to be rushed at the checkout, bad checks and fake ids do slip through.

"If they feel uncomfortable about a check, don't hesitate to call the police department. Police officers come out and take a look at it, that's what we're here for. Go ahead, let us do our job to catch these people," Jackson said.

Ocean Springs Police are working with departments up and down the coast, but so far they have few leads on where to find the suspects. Police believe there may be others working with these men.

Investigators added that Curtis Whigham and Jhointea Marquette Williams are believed to drive a tan Ford Explorer.

If you have any information in this case, please call you local police department.