Cashier’s check scam is foiled in Aurora
By Dan CampanA For The Beacon-News March 3, 2013 4:32PM
The Fifth Third Bank at 1851 W. Galena Blvd. in Aurora was the site of a sting operation last fall involving suspects in an identity theft case. One of the suspects is accused of telling a teller at the downtown Aurora Fifth Third Bank that they would har
Updated: April 5, 2013 6:08AM
Out of fear for his family, the teller at the Fifth Third Bank branch in downtown Aurora did as Pierre Thompson instructed him.
The teller found accounts with big balances and turned over the customer’s information to Thompson, who then arranged for someone posing as the account holder to withdraw tens of thousands of dollars through cashier’s checks. In July 2012, a woman bearing fake identification walked out of the bank with four $20,000 cashier’s checks issued by the teller, according to the scenario laid out in search warrant affidavits.
“(The teller) stated he felt threatened and agreed to (obtain account information) to protect himself and his family,” the court documents say. “(The teller) did not tell anyone about the threats and did not contact police.”
Within a day of the checks being issued, the teller was questioned by bank investigators and, eventually, Aurora police, according to Kane County Court documents. The teller admitted his role in issuing the checks and agreed to help police — marking the beginning of the end to Thompson’s scheme.
Thompson, 24, of Chicago, has been held in the Kane County Jail on $350,000 bail since his arrest in October on charges of aggravated identity theft involving a person older than 60 and financial institution robbery.
He appeared in court for a brief hearing last week when his attorney told Judge Clint Hull that he would again seek a bond reduction to get Thompson out of jail. A similar request was denied in November. Thompson’s fiance has since learned she is pregnant and, in court records, said Thompson helps pay expenses for the woman’s 3-year-old daughter from a different relationship.
Hull set a hearing for Thursday for Thompson’s second bond-reduction motion, while a March 20 preliminary hearing was also scheduled. Thompson has not yet formally denied the charges.
Thompson, who has a previous conviction for unlawful use of a weapon, first met the teller in April 2012. The teller said Thompson — going by the name “Ruger” — started up a conversation with him at his part-time job at a store at the Chicago Premium Outlets mall in Aurora. Two days after their first meeting, Thompson showed up at the teller’s home in North Aurora and demanded personal account information belonging to bank customers, according to court records.
“Ruger told (the teller) he had to do this or else (the teller’s) family would be in trouble,” an Aurora police investigator wrote in the affidavit.
Thompson visited the teller — who was charged and cooperated with police — again in late June or early July 2012. Within a few days, Thompson began calling the teller seeking account information and, eventually, told the teller to be ready for a female posing as a bank customer to make withdrawals at the Fifth Third Bank branch at 34 S. Broadway.
On July 30, the woman arrived at the bank, showed fake identification and received four $20,000 cashier’s checks from the teller. Later that day, Thompson called the teller saying an Aurora currency exchange wouldn’t cash one of the checks, so the teller later gave authorization to a Chicago currency exchange to do so, according to the affidavit.
Sting set up
At some point, the actual bank customer received an anonymous phone message from a person claiming to have information on the account theft. Police later spoke to the caller, who claimed to have learned about what Thompson did from a relative. The customer’s account information was later found in the caller’s vehicle, police said in the affidavit.
Police developed enough information on Thompson that a judge authorized investigators to record a phone conversation between the teller and Thompson. In that call, Thompson “admitted to his role in the first incident” and wanted the teller’s help do it again.
From there, police worked with Fifth Third Bank officials to set up a sting at the bank’s branch at 1851 W. Galena Blvd. on Aurora’s West Side for Oct. 10.
Aurora police had officers in the bank posing as employees, while several more were stationed in nearby parking lots and other areas to watch for Thompson and any others participating in the withdrawals.
The woman — later identified as Natalie Woods of Chicago — entered the bank and met the teller.
Woods requested five different checks totaling “over $100,000” be made out to four different people and showed the teller a fake ID purporting her to be the real customer, court records say. The teller acted as if he was getting the checks, but returned with a sealed envelope containing only blank paper. As Woods started to leave the bank, she was stopped by a police officer.
During an initial interview inside the bank, Woods could not pronounce the last name of the person she was posing as, the affidavit states. Woods, Thompson and a third man were then arrested by police.
Woods, who turned 47 on Sunday, is also charged with aggravated identity theft involving a person over 60 years of age. She remains in the Kane County Jail on $100,000 bail.
Davon Brinson, who police said drove Thompson to Aurora in exchange for a “fee,” is also accused of aggravated identity theft. He is free on $10,000 bail. The identity theft charge against all three suspects is a Class X felony.
Wood returns to court Thursday, while Brinson, 28, of Chicago, is scheduled for a March 28 hearing.