June 27, 2016

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Columbus man arrested for phony checks

BRUNSWICK — East Cleveland police arrested a man Tuesday who allegedly stole identities from children and used them to get fake Ohio driver’s licenses to cash bogus checks in at least 15 cities, including Brunswick, accord­ing to Brunswick police.

Brunswick Detective Brian Schmitt said Albert Worthen, 38, of Columbus, was being held in Westlake on a warrant relating to the case after being pulled over for a license plate violation in East Cleveland on Tuesday morning.





Worthen reportedly cashed a fraudu­lent check for $991.48 on Sept. 11 at First Federal of Lakewood, 1812 Pearl Road. On that same day, he also allegedly cashed checks for just less than $1,000 each at eight other banks, including ones in Avon and Avon Lake, Schmitt said.

In the last week, he allegedly cashed checks in North Ridgeville at PNC banks, Schmitt said.

“He has hit a couple of cities a couple of times,” Schmitt alleged.

He said the detective out of Walton Hills who is running the investigation estimated Worthen may have acquired more than $50,000 from the phony checks.

All the checks were made to look like they were from businesses, and Worthen reportedly was able to get the companies’ correct routing numbers for the checks, Schmitt said.

He said Worthen was using three dif­ferent false identities to cash the checks, and at least two of the identities have been traced back to children.

The name he allegedly used to cash the check in Brunswick, Isaac Lawrence III, reportedly belongs to an 11-year­-old boy. A second name, Larry D. Moore Jr., is reportedly that of a 1-year-old boy. A third identity, Richard Beavers III, has not yet been traced, Schmitt said.

It was not known where the boys were from or how Worthen may have stolen their identities, but Schmitt said he appeared to have authentic Social Security cards for each of them.

Worthen also reportedly had another forged ID from Cuya­hoga Community College to use as a backup, Schmitt said.

At least three women may be connected to the case, Schmitt said, explaining each of them tried to cash checks that appeared identical to the ones Worthen reportedly cashed. At least two of them got away with money, he said.

Their ages and addresses are not yet known, he said.

Schmitt said charges are pending through a Cuyahoga County organized crime unit. The Bureau of Motor Vehicles alone could charge him with up to 30 felony counts related to forgery, he said.

A spokeswoman from the Ohio Department of Public Safety said the department is aware of the case and the investigation is ongoing, but she could not comment further on the case. The BMV is a divi­sion of the Ohio Department of Public Safety.

Schmitt said detectives from all the affected cities and inves­tigators from the BMV organ­ized a task force to find the sus­pect’s identity and learned at their first meeting on Tuesday that he had been appre­hended.

After Worthen was stopped in East Cleveland, police traced the car’s registered name of Albert Worthen to an expired driver’s license, Schmitt said.

“The car was registered in his real name,” he said. “But he gave the cop the fake ID” of Isaac Lawrence III.

Because the name had been flagged in police databases, the officer was able to arrest him, Schmitt said.

On Tuesday, Schmitt and a BMV investigator went to the dealership where the car was purchased two weeks ago, and an employee identified Worthen as the man who bought the car, Schmitt said.

“This is definitely one of the more in-depth investigations,” Schmitt said.

He said Worthen’s last known address was in Columbus. Once authorities can pinpoint where he has been living, they will seek a search warrant to try to find some of the money.

“There’s money hiding somewhere,” Schmitt said.

Contact Jennifer Pignolet at (330) 721-4063 or jpignolet@medina-gazette.com.