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FOUR CHARGED IN FRAUDULENT-CHECK SCHEME

Four people have been arrested in a fraudulent-check scheme similar to one that ended with six arrests earlier this month, State Police Investigator Joseph Iresabal said Friday.

Iresabal listed the suspects as Renee D. Stanton, 34, of 1 Sherman Road, Middleport; Eugene F. Russell, 61, of 57 Beverly Ave., and Margaret M. Zuehlke, 25, and Alfred C. Fulton, 34, both of 9 Elm Court.

He said they were charged with various counts of second-degree forgery, first-degree scheming to defraud and third-degree grand larceny.

The scheme, under way since September, netted the suspects $10,456, Iresabal said.

"Renee's written 58 checks in two counties," Iresabal said of Ms. Stanton, who along with the others is to have her case brought before grand juries by Assistant District Attorneys Timothy Murphy in Niagara County and Candace Vogel in Erie County.

Ms. Stanton also was arrested on other bad check and grand larceny charges by the Sheriff's Department. Those warrants were issued in the towns of Pendleton and Royalton, Sheriff's Investigator Christopher J. Carlin said. He said the amount involved was about $4,000. Ms. Stanton was being held in Niagara County Jail Friday in lieu of $17,550 bail.

Iresabal said forged or otherwise worthless checks were cashed at local Tops and Wegmans stores, using automatic teller machine cards for savings accounts at two local federal credit unions: Unit No. 1 in Lockport and Ontario Shores in Newfane.

Iresabal said the cards and associated personal identification numbers were obtained in some fashion from Ms. Zuehlke's parents, who have savings accounts at the credit unions. "The parents still owe money," Iresabal said, since the contents of the accounts were used to make good the worthless checks and the accounts became overdrawn.

Iresabal said participants in the scheme would take a check to the supermarket, which would accept the ATM card for computerized banking.

While depositing a small amount in the savings account, the suspects would take most of the face value of the checks in cash, the investigator said.

The suspects are due for court appearance before Lockport Town Justice Wesley Arnold Jan. 8.

Five Lockport residents and a Lyndonville man were arrested by Iresabal earlier this month in a similar scam that may have bilked local banks and credit unions out of $70,000.

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