Crime

They used their unsuspecting friends to scam banks out of $10,000

Tri-City Herald file

Police believe a pair of fraudsters stole about $10,000 from Kennewick banks by writing checks without any money behind them.

Aaron D. Lighthall, 20, and Jaden D. Scheuerlein, 23, allegedly ran a scheme where they opened a series of empty accounts at west Kennewick banks, investigators said.

The men allegedly wrote bad checks from one of the accounts, then deposit it in another.

They’d then immediately pull the check’s amount from the ATM, investigators said.

Staff at Hapo Community Credit Union caught wind of the scheme and called Kennewick police in early October. Police tracked it back to Lighthall and Scheuerlein.

The pair also manipulated friends as part of their fraud, according to a police report.

ATM stock photo
Tri-City Herald file

In one instance, investigators said Lighthall told a friend he’d just gotten paid from work and had her deposit a bad check. Then, she withdrew $500 for him, according to court records.

In another, Scheuerlein manipulated a victim to let him use her debit card, investigators said. He then kited a $1,000 check and withdrew $500. She had less than $500 real dollars in her account, putting her in the red.

Police found more than $50,000 in fraudulent checks. The two men were able to get their hands on about $10,000.

The scheme ended Thursday afternoon when police caught up with Lighthall as he tried another deposit at Key Bank in Kennewick, When they searched him in, he allegedly had four altered checks and as fentanyl pills on him.

Police arrested Scheuerlein as his Yellowstone Avenue home the same day. They found a handgun in his waistband and another in a vehicle, police said.

Eric Vitale, fraud investigation specialist with the San Luis Obispo Police Department, demonstrates how to spot a card skimmer on an ATM, gas pump or other card reader. He also offers advice for keeping your PIN and card information safe.

The investigation is ongoing and police expect more arrests.

Lighthall and Sheuerlein are being held in the Benton County jail on suspicion of first-degree theft and identity theft, and unlawfully writing checks.

Lighthall faces an additional count of drug possession.

Cameron Probert: 509-582-1402; Twitter: @cameroncprobert
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