A California man was arrested by Boardman Police after he was stopped for failure to display his license - little did they know they had captured the man wanted in connection with a rash of counterfeit checks totaling almost $17,000.

Oscar Lorenzo Espinoza Vera, 48, 154 Oregon St., Salinas, Calif. was charged by Hermiston Police with first-degree aggravated theft and first-degree forgery. He is lodged in the Umatilla County Jail on $21,000 bail.

Vera was also arrested by Boardman Police for identity theft and is being held on an immigration services hold.

On Aug. 21, Hermiston police officer Shane Robinson responded to Fiesta Foods at about 3:30 p.m. regarding a report of several Hispanic males who had attempted to cash payroll checks with what appeared to be false identification, said Lt. Jason Edmiston. Robinson gathered information from Fiesta Foods employees and a business alert was sent out through Hermiston Business Watch to alert other businesses that counterfeit checks from MJ's Labor Services, Inc. in Umatilla. Edmiston said the owner of MJ's had been in contact with Banner Bank about the counterfeit checks.

About 45 minutes later, the Boardman police responded to a similar call. They made a traffic stop on a white van with California plates.

Edmiston said his agency is continuing its investigation and believes a group of 10-15 Hispanic males, including Vera, in at least three different vehicles - based on Boardman police's call where three vehicles were fleeing - were responsible for cashing counterfeit checks totaling $16,574.88 in Hermiston at Fiesta Foods and La Mexicana. However, only one was stopped by the Boardman police.

Edmiston said the case has been forwarded to the Umatilla County District Attorney's Office. The Federal Bureau of Investigation has been notified because he has had contact from agencies in Georgia regarding a similar scam.

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