LAKE COUNTY, Calif. – One man has been arrested and a second is being investigated in connection to alleged altering of checks from a local recycling buyback center.
The separate cases, involving identical crimes, arose earlier this week and involved checks from Lake County Waste Solutions' recycling center on Soda Bay Road, according to company owner Bruce McCracken.
So far, it hasn't been determined if the two incidents are related.
On Monday, a suspect went into a local bank with a Lake County Waste Solutions check that had been altered and managed to cash the check, which McCracken said was for more than $900.
Then, on Wednesday afternoon, another man attempted to cash a similar check that had been altered to read an amount of more than $1,000, according to David Toews, Lake County Waste Solutions' operations manager.
Lt. Jason Ferguson of the Lakeport Police Department said Michael Matthias Gunderson, 25, of Clearlake, attempted to cash the check at Savings Bank of Mendocino County in Lakeport on Wednesday.
Ferguson said he responded to the scene and contacted Gunderson, with whom Lakeport Police had no previous contacts.
Ferguson arrested Gunderson on a felony charge of making or passing a fictitious check, with bail set at $15,000 for that charge.
Jail records indicated Gunderson remained in custody on Friday due to a no-bail hold for a felony probation violation, with a tentative Friday court date scheduled.
On Thursday, Toews took additional evidence related to the Monday check cashing to the Lake County Sheriff's Office, which is investigating that first case.
“This is kind of a new thing, which is scary,” Toews said.
McCracken acknowledged that his business has taken a hit due to the fraudulent checks activity. “We’ve had people try to alter the checks in the past, not to this extent.”
He said he and his staff are trying to figure out how to tighten up their system as one means of preventing their checks from being altered.
The other way to stop it is to warn other businesses, he said.
If it's happening to his company, McCracken added, “Who knows who it’s going to happen to?”
Email Elizabeth Larson at firstname.lastname@example.org . Follow her on Twitter, @ERLarson, or Lake County News, @LakeCoNews.