A banker, a neighbor and two police departments put it together to catch a thief and help out a Wauwatosa woman, police reports say.
She was driving home Monday afternoon when she got a call from her new bank, the Associated Bank branch at North 59th Street and West North Avenue in Milwaukee, where she had just recently opened a checking account.
"Have you received your first box of checks yet?" the banker wanted to know.
"No, I haven't," she said. "Why?"
"Well, there's someone here trying to cash one of them for $1,000."
The woman was taken aback, of course, and told her banker that by no means had she written a check to anyone – couldn't have.
The bank staff stalled the man and called Milwaukee police, who arrived to question him. He told a tale of how an acquaintance of his had given him the check and asked him to cash it for him.
Meanwhile, the owner of the checks arrived at her apartment in the 2600 block of North 67th Street. She knew she had less than an ideal situation regarding her mail delivery. The door to her building was locked, but her mailbox was not. Sometimes her mail was just left on the front step.
She ran into her neighbor, a man she said had been friendly, helpful and welcoming since she'd moved in. She told him her story.
"Oh, no," he said. "I think I know what happened."
Man chooses neighbor over friend, right over wrong
A good friend of his, he said – a friend of 15 years – had stopped by to visit earlier. He had gone to the outer door to let his friend in, he said, and something a little unusual had happened. He hadn't noticed any mail on the stoop, he said, but as he led the way back to his apartment, his friend had unaccountably lagged behind him by about 15 seconds.
Then, he said, after they hung out for awhile, his friend had asked him to accompany him to a bank to cash a check. He thought that was odd, he said – he didn't understand why his friend would need him on such an errand, and he wasn't interested in going. He stayed home.
He told the woman he was pretty sure his friend had stolen her box of checks. She called police. Her neighbor gave them his longtime friend's name. Wauwatosa police confirmed with Milwaukee police that he was the same man they were holding at the bank.
The 34-year-old Milwaukee man was arrested for forgery and false uttering, and Milwaukee police asked Wauwatosa police for a report on the theft of the checks to add to their case against the suspect.