Stimulus scams? Police checking into possible crime in Butler County

Middletown police are asking for help to determine if people cashing stimulus checks at local stores have been charged hundreds of dollars in fees.

Officers recently took a report from a woman who said she was being charged $500 to cash her $2,700 stimulus check at a small store in Middletown. The woman asked the workers why she was being charged such a high fee, and she was told it was because her ID was expired, according to police.

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The woman returned the money and received the check back, but writing added to the back by the business made it impossible to cash elsewhere, she told police. She is working to receive a replacement check.

Police are looking into the situation and are asking anyone that has had a similar occurrence in Middletown to call Major Scott Reeve at 513-425-7746.

“We need to find out if this was a one-time issue or a greedy small business taking advantage of the most needy among us. With so many people out of work and desperate to make ends meet it becomes easier for unscrupulous people to take advantage of others,” Reeve said.

Reeve told the Journal-News that charging the high fee is “not right, but is it a crime? We need to determine that.”

Butler County Prosecutor Michael Gmoser said if the allegations are true, it is “unconscionable” and a crime — maybe attempted theft or attempted unauthorized use of property.

Gmoser said that “it appears that they misled her into believing they could charge that amount.”

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He added, “Current events bring out the new scams. When you have tax filings, you have tax scams. When you have spring break, you have grandparent scams. When you have a epidemic, it brings out the health care scams. It’s a tragedy.”

Police consulted with an area bank to see the industry standard for cashing checks without a bank account and were advised they have been waiving check cashing fees for stimulus checks issued from the federal government. Some people get checks issued through a third party, in which case they charged 2 percent with a minimum fee of $5.

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