Check washing scheme thwarted by Salem police

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SALEM –– A suspicious activity call to a Main Street bank Saturday afternoon led to the arrest of a Massachusetts man involved in a widespread check washing scheme, according to local authorities.

At approximately 12:35 p.m. on Sept. 30, Salem police responded to a report of a male suspect attempting to pass a fraudulent check.

The suspect fled the scene before officers arrived, but was later stopped by Officer Jake Genest on Granite Ave.

The suspect’s vehicle was impounded after four personal checks, two of which had been “washed,” were discovered during an on-scene investigation.

Check washing involves altering a check written by the account holder by removing the original payee and check amount with chemicals, then rewriting the check to a different individual for a different amount.

The suspect, identified as 22-year-old Axel Rodriguez of Lawrence, Massachusetts, was arrested on a Class B felony charge of forgery.

Rodriguez was processed and released on personal recognizance bail, with arraignment scheduled for Nov. 2 at the Rockingham Superior Court.

A subsequent search of the impounded vehicle yielded over 75 additional stolen personal checks.

The checks, written by separate account holders to various individuals and businesses over the past week, were believed to have been stolen from the U.S. Postal Service system while en route to their final destinations.

Salem detectives plan to contact the account holders individually to inform them about the recovery of their personal checks and the fact that their intended payments were not received by the end payee.

In addition to the recovered checks, counterfeit U.S. currency and a chemical commonly used to “wash” checks were seized from the vehicle.

The case remains under investigation, with additional charges expected.

Anyone with information regarding this case is asked to contact Detective Mike Geha at the Salem Police Department. Det. Geha can also be reached for verification if any individual receives a call from the Salem Police Department regarding a recovered check.

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