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Published: Friday, 4/8/2005

Man held in phony-checks case

OTTAWA, Ohio - A Tennessee man suspected of cashing bogus paychecks in 30 states was arrested in Putnam County after a businessman saw him change the license plates on his vehicle, the Putnam County Sheriff's Office reported yesterday.

William G. Baker, 72, of Chattanooga, was arrested Monday and charged with forgery and putting counterfeit checks into circulation. He is being held in the county jail in lieu of a $10,000 cash bond and a holder issued by the U.S. Marshals Service. Federal authorities may level additional charges, the sheriff's office said.

They believe Baker may have traveled through 30 states in 18 months cashing computer-generated checks at grocery and convenience stores in small communities, usually on weekends, when banks are closed. The sheriff's office said he got a "substantial" amount of money, but did not give an exact figure.

After receiving the tip, an Ottawa police officer stopped Baker. Sheriff's deputies said he gave them fake identification. A background check revealed he is wanted by federal authorities on charges of a probation or parole violation. Further investigation turned up evidence that he was staying in an Indiana motel, where authorities found more than $100,000 worth of counterfeit payroll checks.

Because several states are involved, the U.S. Secret Service joined the investigation.

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