LEE COUNTY, Fla.- A WINK News investigation uncovers a link between people arrested for cashing fraudulent checks from the Lee County School District's account and people who work for the school district. 19 people were able to walk away with more than $31,000.
Neither the district nor the Lee County Sheriff's Office is saying how but WINK News has learned some of the suspects arrested have family connections to employees at the districts and others have extensive criminal backgrounds.
Since May 8, 2012, 19 people have been arrested for cashing bogus payroll checks from the Lee County School District at four different Wal-Marts - Fort Myers, Cape Coral, Lehigh Acres and North Fort Myers. But for some of these suspects, this isn't the first time they've been in trouble with the law.
Some past charges of some of the suspects include attempted second degree murder, cruelty towards a child, possession of a cocaine, burglary, grand theft, petit theft along with numerous drug charges.
We got our hands on a list that includes the names of the district employees from the last two years and we made some potential connections between this list and the people arrested. So we went looking for answers.
We went door knocking and confirmed at least two school district employees are related to Ebony Powell, one of the 19 arrested. We also found other possible family relationships between district employees and then 19 arrested and we're working on confirming those as well.
So how do 19 people, some with connections to the district, walk in and out of four different Wal-Marts with enough information to forge a check? Recently, we caught up with the school district spokesman and asked how the crooks could have gotten away with the cash.
"It could be that somebody worked somewhere and got a copy of a payroll check and with today's scanners and printers, made a copy of it and started forging them that way," said Joe Donzelli, school district spokesman.
Despite 19 fraudulent checks amounting to more than $31,000 being cashed with the name of the Lee County School District on them, the district says they're not seeing a financial hit.
"The district is not out any funds and we're working very close with the law enforcement community to find out out far it goes, who is involved and providing them with whatever information they need as they do their criminal investigation," said Donzelli.
So who is out the $31,000? We talked to Florida Gulf Bank Vice President Cathy Rubinski, who has no connection to the district's bank. She says in this case, Wal-Mart's bank would since that's where the checks were cashed.
Wal-Mart told us "We are working closely with local law enforcement and will continue to provide information to them for their ongoing investigation. We have a contract with a third party service provider that verifies the bank account number and routing information," said Kayla Whaling, Wal-Mart spokeswoman.
We asked the school district about the fact that those charges are related to several current employees and we were again told they're working with investigators and can't comment but Donzelli did give us the statement saying, "What you are asking could be central to the investigatory process and if we provide information that would become public about what we do or do not know at this time or possible leads that are being followed, that could thwart the investigation."
WINK News is going to continue to dig into each arrest and we'll let you know what we find.