Houston woman charged in payee fraud scheme involving auto parts supplier

Houston woman charged in payee fraud scheme involving auto parts supplier

Houston woman charged in payee fraud scheme involving auto parts supplier

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by KHOU.com staff

khou.com

Posted on January 23, 2014 at 2:59 PM

Updated Thursday, Jan 23 at 3:05 PM

HOUSTON – A 43-year-old woman was arrested in connection the theft of almost $8,000 from a northwest Houston auto parts supplier over the course of nearly two months, police said.

Blanca Estela Franco, of Houston, is charged with aggravated theft from the elderly, court documents state.

According to an affidavit from the Houston Police Department, the owner of Houston Alternator, Inc., located in the 1800 block of N. Shepherd Dr., explained to investigators that she had hired Franco as a sales rep back in June 2010. Franco was responsible placing orders and delivering automobile parts to customer job sites.

The owner said she received a call from Bank of America on Oct. 21 regarding a possible altered payee fraud scheme. The bank said they noticed several checks that Franco had cashed from the business’ Chase bank account, which were made out to “Continental Batteries.” However, “Blanca Franco for” was handwritten over the original payee name.

The bank said the alteration essentially made the check payable to Franco, so there was no need to forge an endorsement.

The owner of the business conducted an internal investigation and discovered 23 checks that had been altered by Franco that were given to her to fulfill orders on behalf of the company between Aug. 16 and Oct. 21, the affidavit states.

After investigators reviewed the business’ Chase bank account documents, they subpoenaed Franco’s bank account records from Bank of America. They found that Franco opened the account and was the only customer listed.

Investigators discovered three altered checks made payable to Commercial Water Pump, but the words “Blanca Franco for a” were later added and written above the customer business name, the affidavit states. They also located 20 checks payable to Continental Batteries altered in the same manner.

The total value of the altered checks deposited in the suspect’s bank account totaled $7,853.58, the affidavit states.

Franco remains in custody with bail set at $5,000.

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