“Using other neighbors, friends, family, relatives as their victims. Absolutely, it makes it very dangerous,” Sprague said.
According to investigators, members of the FreeBandz Gang would use social media or approach people and offer from $500 to $1,000 in exchange for them to open an account. If the person agreed, a series of fraudulent checks would be deposited so the schemers could withdraw the funds before the scam was detected by the bank.
In addition to the fraudulent check-cashing scheme, group members are also accused of stealing identities to buy cars and phones to resell.
One woman, who wished to remain anonymous, said she was involved in the scheme without her knowledge.
While speaking with WSOC, the woman said someone she trusted gave one of the members involved in the scheme her debit card without her knowing.
“When I deposited my check a couple of days later, my bank account had been closed due to fraudulent activity,” the woman said. “All my hard-earned money that I actually worked for and saved for my daughter was gone.”
Each suspect faces up to 30 years in jail.
“It would be a surprise to everybody that it happens everywhere, every city,” Sprague said.