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Forgery, identify fraud send two to prison

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Two suspects facing multiple charges of forgery and identity fraud entered guilty pleas in Jones County Superior Court.

Melody Johnson and KeKe Lashburn Hunt appeared via Zoom court in a Jones County Superior Court proceeding June 25. Each of the defendants received sentences of 20 years with four years to serve.

Johnson and Hunt pled guilty to 12 counts of identity fraud, and Johnson had the additional charge of giving false information to a law enforcement officer.

A story about the arrests in The Jones County News states Johnson and Hunt were arrested Nov. 18, 2019. Gray Police Chief Adam Lowe said Hunt’s criminal record showed arrests in Florida in August for counterfeit bills and multiple charges in Georgia for identity fraud and theft by deception. He said Johnson’s criminal history lists arrests for aggravated assault, drugs, shoplifting and bad checks.

Gray Police Officer Terius Farley said he was called by the manager of a Gray auto parts store after the receipt of check for the purchase of a $300 carburetor. The check was put through a check verification device and came back as good.

Farley said the manager asked him to come to the store because something just was not right about the transaction.

The officer said the carburetor was loaded into a U-Haul truck, and it was gone when he got there. He said the store manager told him, after the transaction for the carburetor was complete, the man who had made the purchase said he wanted to make another purchase.

The problem, according to the manager, was the man gave him a different name and identification for the next purchase.

Farley said, when he arrived, the manager gave him the driver’s license number that had been used for the first purchase, and he went to his patrol car to run it on his computer. When he came back in the store, Johnson had come inside attempting to purchase $300 in electronics.

The officer said he asked her for her ID. He said she gave him the ID and ran outside.

Farley said Johnson jumped into a car that was parked in front of the store. The car, a 2014 silver Taurus, attempted to drive away, but Farley was able to get back in his car in time to cut them off.

The officer said, when he looked inside the car, he saw checks lying everywhere. Farley said Hunt was inside the car and also had numerous checks on her.

After all the checks were catalogued as evidence, the number of checks totaled 82. That included blank and forged checks in several different names, none of which matched the individuals in the car.

Farley said he had contacted some of the victims whose names were on the checks and IDs and found out they came from thefts and burglaries.

Most of checks found in the car had Stockbridge addresses. The drivers’ licenses and IDs in the car looked real but upon closer inspection it was apparent the information had been changed.

Lowe said the cards were the first where he was able to see how they could be altered. The chief said this was also the first time they caught someone with that many stolen checks.

Farley said he was surprised when one of the offenders told him she did not understand the problem. He said she commented that it was no big deal because the bank would get its money back.