Austin police tell a victim of check fraud it won't investigate



Posted on December 16, 2009 at 5:49 PM

Updated Thursday, Dec 17 at 11:28 AM

The Austin Police Department tells a victim of check fraud it won't investigate, because the Financial Crimes Unit is overwhelmed with cases.  It happens thousands of times each year.

The Spangler Animal Clinic has been here on this stretch -- of what's now -- North Lamar since the 1940's.

"I'm second generation. My father was here before more me," said Veterinarian Sam Spangler.

In the years since Dr. Spangler took over in 1972, he's never diagnosed a problem like this.

"The bank called me and they had some checks, you know, that didn't match, sequence of checks style of the check," he said.

Turns out, someone named Joshua had cashed two forged checks, each worth more than $750.  He called the Austin Police Department to report it.  The response was not what he expected.  A form letter explaining -- in part -- because of the large number of cases, this one wouldn't be investigated.

Sergeant Justin Newsom is in charge of the Austin Police Department's Financial Crimes Unit.

"It's physically and mathematically impossible for seven detectives to investigate over 8,000 cases a year," he said.

Which is the average number of cases reported each year.  

"Although in this case, it appears that there's a lot to go on, in all 8,000 of those, there's a lot to go on," said Newsom.

A big part of the initial decision not to investigate was Dr. Spangler didn't lose any money because the bank rejected the checks.

"I understand the reasoning behind it. I don't like it to be honest with you," said Spangler.

And he doesn't like the latest developments: calls from a collection agency demanding he pay the company the $750 it paid to the person who forged the check.

"They want me to pay it plus pay a $30 fee for something I never did. But that's OK," said Spangler.

After talking with KVUE News and learning about the second hot check, detectives decided, after all, they would take on his case, leaving Dr. Spangler to get back to the business of healing people's pets.

Detectives say it's possible that the person who cashed the check isn't the person listed on the driver's license.  The person on the driver's license may be a victim of identity theft.  As for the thumb print on the original check, often stores will destroy the original check shortly after electronically sending it to the bank.  Without the original thumbprint, Newsom says detectives will have a tough time making a case. 

To date in 2009, APD's Financial Crimes Unit has made 291 arrests.