Million dollar thieves caught

On Sept. 4, Karen Smith was the latest suspect to be arrested in connection to an alleged check fraud ring scheme that defrauded Fifth Third Bank of $1 million.

Reports of the theft began in June 2019, when five indictments were released for suspects accused of running a check fraud ring throughout the greater Cincinnati area. The scheme allegedly involved depositing bad checks and withdrawing the funds before the checks were cleared.

The suspects were able to steal a reported $1 million from Fifth Third Bank.

The thieves also allegedly targeted casinos, including JACK Casino, Belterra Park and Hollywood Casino. Police said that tips and work by the Ohio Casino Control Commission’s gaming agents revealed the illicit activities.

Vernon Johnson, one of the suspects, was arrested in late June. A second suspect, DeMarlo Harris, was also arrested on Aug. 29. Police are still looking for three other suspects.

First year business major and Cincinnati resident Michael Armitage expressed frustration with the situation.

“It would be pretty nice if they could catch them, I’m still wondering how they got away with it. It’s going to happen at some point, it’s inevitable.” 

This is not the first time that Fifth Third’s ATMs have been targeted by thieves. In August 2018, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported that $106,000 was stolen from Fifth Third’s cardless ATMs in a scheme involving texts containing links mimicking Fifth Third’s website.

“I think its really interesting that much money could disappear with the advanced amount of security we have now,” junior DIFT major Andy Bridge said.

“I mean even look at our residents halls now. We have such advanced security systems, and in light of the recent mass shootings, security has been rising in importance. It’s very surprising to me.”

All suspects are facing charges including theft, telecommunications fraud, forgery and money laundering.

By Charlie Gstalder | Guest Writer