THOMSON, Ga. (WJBF)- A man is charged with stealing checks from a local business, changing the recipient’s name and cashing out.
A business manager caught the suspect in the act with hidden cameras.
A suspicious visitor approaching the back door of a Thomson rental management company at 3:41 a.m. on June 17 made one crucial mistake: leaving a fingerprint.
But the events that led up to this moment began weeks earlier.
“We had a few customers respond to late notices that we mailed them, and these were customers that were not usually late,” said Robert Cort, who is the property manager at Watson and Knox rental company. “They wanted to know why they were getting a late notice.”
Watson and Knox manages more than 400 rental units. Every month, their customers pay their rent to the company– either in the office, through the mail, or through their mail slip.
Cort says the paper payments started disappearing from the mailboxes on the front porch nearly two months ago.
“So immediately, we went and purchased a locked mailbox, and we also cut off our Saturday mail,” he said. “And we did not have an issue for a couple of weeks.”
But then, payments that had been dropped down the mail slot by the back door started going missing.
“Some were money orders, some were personal checks made out to Watson and Knox that were changed to the same individual’s name as the ones stolen out of the mail box, which is how we’re sure it was the same person,” Cort said.
Thousands of dollars were stolen, Cort said.
He decided to do something about it. The next week he set a trap, putting several fake payments through the slip, and setting up three hidden deer cameras.
In the video, a man appears to take a photo down the slip with his phone and use a device with a string to pull the checks up. The Thomson Police Department used a fingerprint from the company mailbox in the video to identify 26-year-old Carltrez Antoine Freeman.
He was arrested in Richmond County two weeks ago.
A rep from the Thomson police department confirms to NewsChannel 6 that some of the checks and money orders were cashed in the Augusta area.
According to the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office website, Freeman was booked on June 22 with bond set at $2,950.
Cort says he worries that kind of bond isn’t going to be able to keep the suspect from stealing from more people in the future.
Freeman is charged with burglary in McDuffie County and third degree forgery in Richmond County. He faces one to five years behind bars for the forgery charge alone.
An investigator with the Thomson Police Department tells me they’ve seen an increase in financial crimes over the last few years. Those include scams and stolen and fraudulent checks.
Law enforcement in Thomson and the Augusta area working together in the investigation.