Two accused in elaborate fake check cashing scheme

July 7, 2011 9:31:57 AM PDT
Two people are accused in an elaborate counterfeit check cashing scheme at Houston area stores.

Dante Sumlar is the alleged mastermind of the group. Two of his alleged accomplices, Jennifer Lynn Mullinax, 40, and Christopher Antone Hill, 46, are facing charges of engaging in organized criminal activity. According to court documents, Sumlar hired a homeless man in December 2007 to try to purchase gift cards using a $5,000 forged cashier's check at a Walmart in southwest Houston. The clerk became suspicious due to the large dollar amount of the check, and with the help of a bank clerk, found the check to have the routing number from Texas State University. The employees called police.

Houston police arrested the homeless man, Steven Maheux, who told investigators that he was picked up at a homeless shelter by a black man named "Tony" and paid $200 to cash the checks. Maheux said another man named "Chris" picked him up, bought him some new clothes at Ross and drove him to the Walmart to cash the check. Maheux said Chris had eight other checks with him at the time.

Using surveillance video from Walmart, police identified the owner of the car as Christopher Hill. Court documents state Hill told police that he would drive white males around town to cash checks for a man named "Rick," who Hill also knew as Tony. Hill said he was paid $200 each day he drove and stated that a total of about $40,000 in checks were cashed.

Hill told police he knew a woman named Jennifer Mullinax who worked for Rick. Mullinax told police that Rick would pay her cash and crack cocaine to rent vehicles for him. She later told police that she knew Rick's identity from a Harris County arrest. She said she looked through bondsman file pictures and located a file on George Deshane Marshall. She told investigators that she picked up Marshall from jail after the arrest and transported him to the bondsman.

Police then discovered that Marshall was an alias for Dante Karyn Sumlar, 34. Sumlar was a fugitive wanted by the US Secret Service in Mobile, Ala. and Jacksonville, Fla.

According to court documents, Mullinax told police that Sumlar paid her up to $500 in cash and $300 worth of crack for renting cars for him until December 2007. She said Sumlar also paid her about $2,000 to answer phones in the check scheme. The forged checks had a toll-free verification number printed on them and Mullinax would answer the line when clerks would call to verify the fake checks, court documents state. She said Sumlar gave her instructions on what to say when clerks would call the number and how to act like a legit business.

In November 2010, Sumlar was located and arrested. He later plead guilty to all federal charges against him. Court documents state Sumlar said he moved to Houston in February 2007 from Alabama and used aliases Tony and Rick while here. Sumlar told authorities he alone printed all of the counterfeit checks and would make up the routing and account numbers. He also said he targeted such businesses as Walmart, Best Buy, Macy's, Toys R Us and Target, according to court documents.

The police investigation revealed 21 counterfeit cashier's checks in the Houston area for a total loss to merchants of $92,500.

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