CLEVELAND - The Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office has now indicted 15 people on felony counts for allegedly cashing thousands of dollars in stolen RTA payroll checks.
Cuyahoga County Assistant Prosecutor Edward Brydle said the 15 people indicted are facing charges of grand theft, forgery, tampering with records and receiving stolen property.
Brydle said the blank RTA payroll checks ended up in the wrong hand back in 2015, due to a zip code mix-up and a UPS driver who delivered the 8,800 checks to a vacant lot on East 146th Street.
Brydle explained a man at the vacant lot told the delivery driver the checks were to be handed over to him.
Brydle said dozens of the checks were cashed at local businesses who were left with losses, and now in some cases, RTA employees trying to cash legitimate checks are being turned away.
"The real victims here are the RTA workers, they just want to take their paychecks," he said.
"There could be multiple people who hold these blank checks right now, out on the street. It may be a ring."
"They are typing in the information of the person who they have recruited to cash the check and they're driving that person around."
Assistant Prosecutor Paul Soucie said it's not clear how the blank RTA payroll checks were addressed to a vacant lot.
Soucie said there is concern more of the stolen checks could be used in the future.
"We were never able to identify an answer as to how or why that address was switched, or why it came up the way it did."
"RTA employees are just trying to cash their check for the money that they've worked hard to earn, they're being turned away," Soucie said.
RTA responded to our story issuing the following statement:
"A Cuyahoga County Grand Jury has indicted 15 individuals on charges that they stole, forged and cashed checks from the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA).
No RTA money was lost in relation to these indictments. None of those indicted are RTA employees.
RTA’s investigation that led to yesterday’s indictments, as well as the criminal prosecution of other individuals in 2016, began in the fall of 2015 after RTA did not receive a UPS delivery of checks.
Transit Police investigated and turned their evidence over to the County Prosecutor.
Because of RTA’s internal controls, as well as the controls already in place between RTA and its bank, none of the fraudulently cashed checks related to these indictments resulted in a financial loss to RTA.
RTA management has controls in place to flag fraudulent activity, and we have put measures in place to prevent any future occurrence."
If convicted, those indicted could face up to three years in jail.