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Crime ring using homeless to commit bank fraud

A crime ring specializing in bank fraud that recruits homeless people to its ranks may be operating in Champaign County, Urbana police said.

At 8:37 a.m. Monday, a suspicious person entered Peoples Savings Bank, 618 Scioto St., and tried to commit a fraud.

Police did not provide details on the type of fraud but said similar activity occurred at the same bank on Sept. 19 and 21.

When officers arrived at the bank, the suspicious person ran. A search began in alleys and yards near the bank. Approximately 16 minutes later, after a brief foot chase through a city neighborhood, officers arrested the person at gunpoint in the front yard of a home in the 100 block of North Jefferson Avenue.

At about the same time, police alerted area officers that a white SUV with a temporary license plate may also be involved in the crime ring. The vehicle was seen leaving the bank at high speed, headed east. A Champaign County sheriff's deputy spotted the vehicle in Mutual and stopped the driver on East State Route 29. Two men were arrested.

Police believe all three men arrested Monday are part of a larger crime ring that is targeting banks.

According to the police department, the ring uses homeless people to help in completing thefts from banks by using stolen or fake checks drawn from accounts created for various reputable businesses that have accounts at the bank.

Police said they are contacting other area law enforcement agencies to see if there are similar investigations of this crime ring.

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