Two Johnson County women were indicted by a Pike grand jury recently in connection with what prosecutors are saying was a plan to defraud merchants across multiple counties with forged payroll checks.
Pike Commonwealth’s Attorney Rick Bartley said the separate indictments of Rebecca Ratliff, 36, of Ky. 1428, Hager Hill, and Megan Stacy, 24, of Ky. 825, Swamp Branch, appear to be connected and may be part of a fraud scheme that has now been identified as operating in Pike, Johnson, Floyd, Clark and Fayette counties.
The two women are charged, in separate cases, for possessing and cashing fraudulent payroll checks at Food City stores in Pike County in late May and early June of this year. The checks were all purported to be from accounts associated to local medical facilities, including Pikeville Medical Center, Highlands Regional Medical Center and Paul B. Hall Regional Medical Center, Bartley said.
“What is common here, but we can’t prove that they were together, is, they are both from the same area, these checks were passed during the same time period and they were all passed here in Pike County at Food City (stores),” Bartley said. “The common theme seems to be that all three looked like payroll checks from these medical centers, but none were issued by those centers.”
Ratliff successfully passed a check, for a value of $689.57, at one Food City store on May 21 before returning to a separate Food City on June 15 and failing to pass a second check, Bartley said. Stacy successfully passed a check, for a value of $579.45, at a Food City store on May 30, according to Bartley.
“These checks have been passed all over the state of Kentucky,” Bartley said. “I do not have their complete records and there may be charges that are pending that have yet to be served on them, but it is my understanding that several counties have charges related to this scam, including, Johnson, Floyd, Clark and Fayette counties, that we know of.”
When Ratliff attempted to pass the second check on June 15, according to Bartley, she was questioned about having a payroll check from Pikeville Medical Center, due to employees at Food City being familiar with PMC’s policy of having direct deposits on paychecks. She told employees she had just begun to work at PMC and without an account set up, the medical center was paying her by check, Bartley said.
“Unfortunately with today’s computers and scanners, it not that hard to create a fake check. Merchants must really watch these checks, especially large payroll checks, and confirm that the checks are in fact good,” Bartley said. “These people used their correct information and presented their identifications when they cashed the checks. This was a plan to travel around and defraud several merchants with fake payroll checks.”
Ratliff was indicted on two counts of second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument and one count of theft by deception. Ratliff, according to court records, was also charged with criminal possession of a forged instrument in Clark County in June and arrested on a failure to appear warrant through Floyd County on the date of the Clark County charges.
Stacy was indicted on one count each of second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument and theft by deception. Bartley said he believes Stacy is currently in the custody of law enforcement in Fayette County.