News10NBC Investigates: Webster couple victimized in check scheme involving Monroe County Clerk’s Office
ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — As News10NBC first reported, the Monroe County Clerk’s Office is at the center of a criminal investigation being conducted by the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office concerning checks sent to the Clerk’s office that were stolen, altered and cashed.
Jim and Melissa Yates are getting ready to move from Webster to Virginia so, they needed what’s called a mortgage discharge. “Just to prove to realtors and lawyers that there is no lien on the house,” Melissa explains. Their bank directed them on how to get it. “They sent us a note from Monroe County Clerk, saying to send the check for $50.50 to this address so I wrote a check and we did that,” Melissa adds.
The check was mailed to the Monroe County Clerk’s office along West Main Street in Downtown Rochester, “I wrote the check on June 10, on June 16 it was cashed at the ESL on Ridgeway for $5000 instead of $50,” Melissa says. “We don’t typically write personal checks for that amount of money so the fraud department, it got flagged a day later but by then it was too late.”
From there, the Yates’ had to jump through hoops to get the situation straightened out. “They had to freeze our checking account and then we had to get all new accounts, but I had to go to the Webster Police first and file a police report and then I went to ESL and signed a whole bunch of affidavits that I did not legitimately write the check for 5,000,” Melissa tells News10NBC.
The check had been “washed”—meaning whoever stole it, used household chemicals to erase some of the ink and re-write the name and amount on it. Earlier this week, News10NBC learned the same thing happened to at least 16 other people who sent checks for mortgage discharges to the County Clerk’s office in late May and early June.
While the Yates’ have a copy of the canceled check which shows the woman’s name who cashed it, it is likely that person is a middle-man who was approached by others to cash the check in exchange for a small payment.
The investigation is ongoing.