|Trinity Standard - Local News
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Suspect in 2010 check scam nabbed at casino
Trinity Standard -
TRINITY — A Houston man wanted in connection with a 2010 check scam in Trinity was taken into custody Sunday night by tribal police on Coushatta Indian Reservation near Kinder, La. Alex Jose Lara-Gutierrez, 23, was arrested on the Trinity warrant after failing to provide identification at the Coushatta Casino Resort. According to Sgt. Randy Wheeler of the Trinity Police Department, Lara-Gutierrez was one of three men being sought in connection with a Hispanic gang that passed 32 forged Trinity Steel payroll checks in Trinity on Sept. 3, 2010. "When he wasn't able to provide an ID at the casino, tribal police began checking on him and found our warrant in the system," Wheeler said. A teller at First Community Bank in Trinity, where some of the checks were passed, had required those cashing the checks to provide a thumbprint. "We got three hits from those prints through AFIS (Automated Fingerprint Identification System) and issued warrants for all three suspects," Wheeler said. Wheeler said the suspect was being held in the Allen Parish Jail in Louisiana on the warrant and will be extradited to Trinity County to face charges. "Sheriff Woody Wallace has been in contact with the Louisiana authorities and is now making arrangements to bring him back here," Wheeler said. Another of the three suspects in the local check scam, Roberto Guevara, 26, of Houston was one of nine arrested in November 2010 in Ohio in connection with a check scam similar to the one perpetrated in Trinity. He was held in Ohio to face charges there and Wheeler said the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) also had a hold placed on the man. "This just goes to show that we don't quit looking for people," Wheeler said. "This case is almost three years old and we are continuing to work to solve it." During a two-hour period on Sept. 3, 2010, a group of at least six or seven Hispanic men went into both the First Community Bank and First National Bank of Trinity to pass the phony payroll checks. They left town with about $20,000. The scam ended when a teller at First Community noticed a man coming in for a second time to cash a check. Bank officials became suspicious and contacted police. The gang managed to leave town before they could be captured, but local police issued a warning to other area law enforcement offices to alert them about the scam. "After they hit us, we were contacted by several agencies who had similar scams pulled in their areas. It appeared they were working their way north from Trinity toward the Chicago area and we think a number of them were caught in Ohio," Wheeler said. He said that while two of the nine men arrested in Ohio had Ohio addresses, most listed their homes as being in Houston.