Police investigate theft from Thurman town bank account

THURMAN — State Police are investigating the forging of two checks drawn on the town’s bank accounts that apparently was part of a financial scheme that targets businesses and governmental agencies.

Police in New York and western Pennsylvania are investigating the cashing of one check and the attempting cashing of another at a grocery store in Coraopolis, Pennsylvania, in March. The store cashed one for $900, but staff became suspicious when a second check for nearly $800 was brought in a short time later, and declined to cash it, according to New York State Police.

The checks carried the town’s account number and bank routing number and an apparently forged version of town Supervisor Cynthia Hyde’s signature. The thief or people he was working with somehow obtained them and used them to make fraudulent checks. Town officials reported it to State Police in April, and the investigating is ongoing.

It was unclear how the town’s bank information was obtained, but police believe the man who cashed the check was from Pennsylvania and that no local residents were involved in the fraud. The check information was likely obtained via information from the Internet.

Glens Falls National Bank reimbursed the town, but some town officials are upset they were not told about the theft until Wednesday night, when State Police advised the Town Board at a meeting.

Town Board member Gail Seaman said Supervisor Cynthia Hyde closed the bank account that was affected and opened new ones, but didn’t advise her or other board members.

“She (Hyde) never told anyone, and we never had a meeting about any of this,” Seaman said. “She (Hyde) calls special meetings about everything, but not this.”

Hyde did not return a phone message left at her office Thursday.

The theft is the latest in a trend of thieves exploiting bank policies that make funds available immediately when certain types of checks are presented.

State Police in Warren and Washington counties arrested two Georgia men last September for a spate of similar fraudulent check-cashings that involved fake checks from local businesses. Those incidents stretched into central Vermont.

The men stole mail from businesses and used the bank information they found to create fake checks that they had cashed by local residents whom they paid.

Both men have pleaded guilty to federal charges and face prison sentences and $164,077 in restitution.