CHARLOTTE COUNTY, Fla.- Officials in Charlotte County say they may have cracked a forged check cashing scheme that could have victims that number into the hundreds. This week, deputies arrested 30-year-old Darby Marie Brown from Tampa and charged her with 21 felony counts relating to phony checks that have been cashed at nearly a half dozen banks in Charlotte County.
Red Jay Kitchens in Englewood may have just dodged a bullet. Bonnie Deatley, Red Jay's accountant told WINK news that a teller at the Punta Gorda Busey bank refused to cash Brown's phony check for $1,000, $200 with her business name on it.
"When $1,200 comes out of your account and it's not being planned on I mean we were one of the lucky ones," said Deatley.
Her assessment is correct. Not everyone was so lucky. According to Lt. Jim Kirdy with the Punta Gorda Police Department, Brown has been targeting banks between Charlotte and Leesburg Florida.
"She's been traveling in the southwest of Florida doing the same types of crimes where she is presenting these fraudulent checks to banks," said Kirdy.
Brown was arrested in leesburg last month on 18 charges related to bank check fraud and records indicate that five separate counties may have open investigations on Brown. There could be hundreds of victims.
"There could be more where the actual account holder hasn't identified that it was a fraudulent check yet," said Kirdy.
Punta Gorda detectives suspect Brown was using account numbers collected from trash cans to write phoney checks based on real accounts. She cashed the checks with fake ID's. Because of the complexity of the crimes, investigators suspect there may be more people involved and more arrests could be pending.
In the meantime, Brown is being held in the Charlotte County Jail on over $1 million bond.