After serving 69 days at DCJ, Keith Edward Wright, 34, was issued a check for the balance of the money he had not spent in DCJs canteen. Ordinarily those types of check amount to $10 or less. But Wright had a better idea than cashing his check or so he thought.
Shortly after his release, [Wright] attended a cookout, and he made a general announcement that he could pay bills, said Detective Sgt. Jeremiah Davis. Wright then masterminded more than 250 electronic withdrawals from DCJs bank account. Those withdrawals, which equaled more than $120,000, went to pay dozens of his friends and acquaintances mortgage payments, utility bills and credit card charges.
Davis told people he could consolidate their debts and pay their bills, for a small fee. The payments included $1,300 for one mans credit card bill, $175 toward a womans Sprint account and $525 for anothers power bill.
DCJ knew nothing about the misappropriated funds until SunTrust Bank officials called the sheriffs office to advise that the account was overdrawn by more than $8,000, said Davis.
Wrights scam wasnt complicated, as he didnt hack into the banks computer system or print counterfeit checks. He simply used the telephone. Davis suspects that, with DCJs check in hand, Wright paid from the checking account over the phone using the jails account number. Wrights friends with access to the account number shared it with others.
Wright was arrested on September 23, 2005, charged with seven felony counts of obtaining property by false pretenses and one count of larceny, and held at DCJ under a $100,000 bond. Davis said he expects to file charges against several more people. Wright wasnt the first person to come up with the bank account scam. In 2004, William Umstead used a jails prisoner account to order more than $8,000 of computer equipment from Dell; he was caught after trying to pick up the shipment.
DCJ was reimbursed for the fraudulently obtained funds after the electronic charges were reversed by SunTrust. Security measures have been put in place to prevent similar fraud, but the jail will still issue checks to released prisoners for canteen balances. I see no need to change the way in which were doing business, said Durham County Finance Director George K. Quick.
On Nov. 29, 2005, Wright pled guilty to charges resulting from the scam and was sentenced to serve a minimum of 70 months.
Source: News Observer
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