Six McCreary County residents and an Oneida, Tenn., woman have been indicted in connection with stolen checks taken from the Whitley County Jail.
On Nov. 22, the McCreary County Grand Jury indicted a total of seven people including Carrie Swafford, 27, of Stearns and Christy Caldwell, 25, of Whitley City, who authorities believe obtained the checks that were written in amounts totaling $5,463.20 and cashed in McCreary County.
A total of 23 forged checks were written on a Whitley County Jail account or accounts between July 1, 2004, and Aug. 19, 2004, according to a series of six indictments issued by the McCreary County Grand Jury.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Allen Trimble said he’s not sure how Swafford and Caldwell obtained the checks.
“I’m not in a position where I can comment on that. The investigation is still pending on it. The state police have interviewed several people about it,” Trimble said.
Trimble said Tennessee authorities are also apparently investigating cases of forged jail checks being cashed there.
“They kind of kept popping up. The state police began their investigation, and it took a while for them to get the case ready to present to the grand jury,” Trimble said.
Trimble, who prosecutes cases in both Whitley and McCreary counties, said Swafford and Caldwell were kept at various times in the Whitley County Jail on McCreary County charges.
The McCreary County Jail doesn’t house female prisoners, and send many of their female prisoners to Whitley County.
“During that period of time Swafford and Caldwell were in the Whitley County Jail, they some how acquired blank checks on Whitley County Jail accounts,” Trimble said.
After being released from jail, the two women returned to McCreary County. Trimble said he’s not sure if their cases were resolved by either a trial or plea bargain, or if the two simply made bond.
“They forged the name of the payee, the signature of the jailer, and of course the amounts,” Trimble said.
Swafford also allegedly cashed checks personally that were made payable to her, according to the indictments.
Caldwell is facing only complicity to commit criminal possession of a forged instrument.
“She never did personally cash any of the checks even though she had acquired them. She gave them to people, who filled them in, or she filled them in, and took them in to cash,” Trimble said.
He said Caldwell and Swafford were allegedly getting a portion of the cashed checks, but he’s not sure how the amounts were divided up.
Trimble said several of the checks were cashed at grocery stores or banks under the premise that the checks were payroll checks of people working at the jail.
“The checks were made to the people that cashed them. They showed their own ID and everything,” Trimble said.
Trimble said the matter was reported to the state police by McCreary County merchants and banks that received the checks, and found out they were forged.
He said the jail apparently found out about the matter prior to that because Jailer Jerry Taylor apparently went to Community Trust Bank, where the jail account was set up, and executed an affidavit of forgery.
The affidavit of forgery means that the business that cashed the check is out the money for the fraudulent check rather then the business or person, whose account the checks are written on.
“If the bank is notified they cashed a forged check, then they become the victim of the crime. They are the ones who lost the money, and then they are the ones who generally proceed with reporting the crime,” Trimble said.
“This is the same way it would be for anyone, who had a check stolen or lost that was forged and cashed. You go to the bank and swear that wasn’t your signature and you didn’t authorize that check, and they return the money to your account, and go back to the people that cashed the checks,” Trimble said.
Trimble said he doesn’t know if jail officials contacted police about the missing checks, but that they did contact the county attorney’s office to report checks missing.
Swafford is charged with two counts of second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument, 21 counts of criminal complicity to commit second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument, and for being a second-degree persistent felony offender.
Caldwell is charged with 23 counts of criminal complicity to commit second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument.
James Phillips, 22, of Revelo, Marshall Staten, 28, of Pine Knot, and Vanessa Anderson-Chaney, 33, of Oneida, Tenn., are each charged with one count second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument.
Sarena Allen, 22, of Stearns is charged with seven counts of second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument, and Shannon King, 23, of Stearns is charged with 11 counts.
All the charges are class ‘D’ felonies punishable by one to five years in prison each.
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