Man accused of stealing charity checks for fraud


Workers with Star of Hope say they don't know who the arrested man is, nor how he got his hands on those donation checks.

Investigators say Michael Shawn Ryals, 42, is the man behind a sophisticated counterfeit check and fake ID scheme that targeted the Star of Hope shelters, among other victims.

"Checks were found that were made to the Star of Hope in Michael Ryals' possession," said assistant district attorney Ed McClees. "It appears that these are checks that people wrote to the Star of Hope."

McClees is with the organized crime division. He says Ryals would use the items to make counterfeit checks and fake IDs, which he would later sell or recruit others to use at big box stores across town.

"The police officers are actively involved in trying to figure out exactly the extent of how far this may go," McClees said.

Court documents show Ryals was using his home in South Houston as the base for his alleged scheme. Armed with a search warrant, investigators raided his home on Tuesday. Investigators say they seized computers, camera equipment, printers, stacks of blank checks, and fake IDs from the home and a car.

Star of Hope gave the following statement to Eyewitness News: "Today the district attorney's office informed us that a small number of checks from 2006 were recovered as a result of a sting operation. We have no further information at this time. Star of Hope is very protective of our financial documents and maintains the highest level of security. We thank the DA's office for their vigilance."

One neighbor who heard about Ryals' arrest and the Star of Hope connection says he's very concerned.

Neighbor Rick Cutler said, "The head of the household here contributes to them every year, so for sure, I'm going to tell him about it."

Prosecutors are suggesting anyone who has made a donation to Star of Hope to check credit reports and bank statements.

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