BOISE, Idaho — At Interfaith Sanctuary on Wednesday, Boise Police presented Maranda Jay with a certificate of recognition. Last month, she alerted police about a group who was targeting those who are homeless, in a scam known as ‘Operation Homeless.’
The scam starts with a group coming into town and targeting business parks, or places where mail comes into a business. Then, they steal payroll checks out of the mail.
“They take those checks, and they end up counterfeiting them. Once they've counterfeited them to look like a payroll check, then they end up taking them or taking them back to a hotel and coming down and they have what we call recruiters or handlers, and they come and find the homeless population,” Boise Police Detective Brad Thorne said.
Thorne said the scammers then pretend to recruit those people for a job.
“They get them to go and cash these checks," Thorne said. "They may buy them food and then the handlers, the recruiters, drive them around from bank to bank to bank, and cash those checks that they had already stolen and counterfeited."
By the time police find out what's happening, the group behind the scam have already moved on to another city and police end up catching the person who was homeless because they cashed the check unknowingly.
Thorne told KTVB those behind the scam can get away with $60,000 in a weekend. Fortunately, that's not what happened last month – thanks to Jay – who was aware of the scam. She learned about the operation from Boise Police warning signs posted in the area.
“So, I had walked next door to Corpus Christi and one of the volunteers there had mentioned that one of our guests had just said something about somebody trying to get them to cash checks,” Jay said.
She got a description of that person, checked the security cameras, then took a picture of the truck they were driving and sent it to Boise Police.
“Without Maranda, we wouldn't have caught them,” Thorne said. “Without her letting us know that there's a truck out in the parking lot recruiting our population here and they're really preying on them to go cash checks and she contacted the right people, and we were able to catch them.”
“I don't like people preying upon my folks, just because they look at them as easy targets, because that's not how I view them," Jay said. "I view them as my family and my friends, and so to have them be targets for such horrible actions just breaks my heart."
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