Woman charged in check-cashing scam

By Janice Gregorson

A local investigation into checks cashed at a Rochester bank has led to criminal charges against a 20-year-old woman and might be tied to a statewide investigation into identity theft.

A warrant has been issued for the arrest of Amanda Jo Hanson, 20, no known address. She is charged with two counts of aiding and abetting in the possession or sale of stolen or counterfeit checks and identity theft, all felonies.

According to the criminal complaint, authorities were alerted two years ago after a man reported to U.S. Bank that two unauthorized checks had been paid on his account. Each check was written for $1,400 and made payable to Hanson. However, the victim also said that the paperstock of the checks didn't match his and that he was not missing any checks.


In April, a police investigator talked to Hanson. The complaint said she remembered cashing the checks, which she said she had received from another person. She said that person also drove her to the bank and waited while she went inside and cashed the checks. Hanson allegedly told authorities that the person who gave her the checks bought personal information about account holders at U.S. Bank from a bank employee in the Twin Cities. Hanson said she received a "commission" of $300 to $400 for cashing the checks.

In January, police were called to Home Federal Bank concerning a history of transactions against an account opened by Hanson. The history included cashing several checks made out to Hanson from Allstate Insurance. Allstate officials said the claim numbers from the checks are invalid, and Hanson is not a policyholder.

Also in January, a police officer went to Sterling State Bank in Rochester concerning a theft call. Officers learned that Hanson had opened an account at the bank using another person's name and ID. Officers checked with that person, who said her purse had been stolen several months ago along with her driver's license and other identification. She had completed a credit check on herself and learned there had been about 20 new accounts opened in her name at various institutions.

The criminal complaint said Hanson admitted cashing checks at Home Federal branches in Rochester, Spring Valley and Winona. She reportedly told police she received about $1,000 cash back each time she cashed a check, again as her "commission" in the scam. She again said another person had given her the checks to cash. She said that other person had also given her the stolen driver's license to use to open a checking account at Sterling State Bank.

Local police contacted other law enforcement agencies, including the state Financial Crimes Task Force and U.S. Secret Service. They learned that broader investigations against the suspects were under way.

In April, the Financial Crimes Task Force searched an Owatonna residence and took two people into custody. They have since been released, and no charges have been filed. The complaint said authorities seized a machine for making driver's licenses and identification cards, a computer, a credit card reader, ID card stock, check stock, ID-making software, a state driver's license guide and real and false Minnesota driver's licenses, among other things. They also found a loaded rifle and boxes of ammunition.

Hanson is charged with aiding and abetting in passing the initial two checks, in cashing $6,542 worth of checks written against Allstate Insurance, and in identity theft in cashing $11,374 worth of checks written against the checking account she is accused of opening at Sterling State Bank.

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