ST. GEORGE —In the aftermath of a two-month investigation into multiple mailbox thefts in December, a number of reports of checks allegedly taken during the spree and later forged prompted further investigation by authorities as altered checks continued to surface.
Dennis Murty, 50, was arrested Tuesday and booked on four third-degree felony forgery charges and four misdemeanor counts of theft – charges that were later filed by the Washington County Attorney’s Office.
This is the second arrest for Murty since January and involves checks allegedly stolen during a rash of mail theft that was reported over a two-month period beginning in November. The thefts took place in several rural communities throughout Washington County, a crime spree that prompted an investigation by the Washington County Sheriff’s Office.
The defendant was arrested Jan. 16 by deputies, then released a few weeks later after posting bond.
According to court records, the reports did not yield enough information to determine how many victims were affected by the thefts, but detectives at the time said that number could be far higher than what was reported, and additional charges could follow as the investigation continued.
As it turned out, two additional cases were reported this week that involved checks allegedly stolen out of the individuals’ mailboxes in December — the first of which was an $85 check drawn on a Wells Fargo account, which was originally made out to a cell phone company and later altered to show Murty as the payee before it was deposited into his account.
Once detectives in St. George discovered the incident was related to an investigation into mailbox thefts being conducted by the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, they were able to get copies of the suspect’s bank statements for the month of December, which showed the check in question was deposited Dec. 17.
On Tuesday, detectives following up on the incident spoke to Murty at his residence, where he told police that his girlfriend, who he said had since moved to California, deposited the check using a mobile app. Murty then gave conflicting stories on a second check allegedly deposited into his account the previous day, according to police.
In that case, police were called out to investigate a fraud report after an individual called police saying a check for $750 cleared their Bank of America checking account under the suspect’s name. The check was dated Dec. 6, the caller said. They told officers they had no idea who the suspect was and denied writing the check, saying it appeared to have been mailed to them from the bank and that it was allegedly stolen from their mailbox in early December.
The deposit was later reflected on the December bank statement associated with the suspect’s account, the report shows.
When questioned by police, Murty said he “sold a tabletop to an unknown male” but stated he didn’t having any information on the person. He then changed his story, saying his girlfriend accepted the check and gave it to him to be mobile deposited into his account.
“I advised Dennis that I did not believe that story,” the detective noted in the report, “and I believed he obtained the check knowing it was stolen and deposited it into his account anyways.”
The suspect was arrested Tuesday and transported to Purgatory Correctional Facility where he was booked into jail for the offenses listed.
Following the Jan. 16 arrest in connection with the mailbox thefts, “a news story was published locally that detailed the investigation that led to his arrest,” the detective wrote in charging documents.
Following the story’s release, investigators were contacted by a local bank reporting that the suspect had allegedly altered a check written to another party that showed him as the recipient before cashing it using the bank’s mobile checking application. The bank also provided the account holder’s information to police.
The bank customer, who lives out of state, told police he had written a check dated Dec. 6 to his brother who lives in a rural town in Washington County, which had multiple mail thefts reported that month. The man said it cleared his account 11 days later, but when he learned that his brother never received the check, he filed a dispute with the bank, which is how police were notified in January.
Detectives also learned of a fourth check reported by an individual who said they sent a check to a previous tenant living in St. George during the same time period in December, which Murty had allegedly stolen from the mailbox and altered the draft to show himself as the recipient, the record shows.
Evidence was then collected during a search of Murty’s residence Jan. 16, which police say linked him to several of the mailbox thefts. At that point police requested the suspect’s bank account records from November through January, which showed a total of four checks, including the two already listed, that were deposited into the suspect’s account.
Upon further investigation, detectives found two of the checks deposited were linked to investigations being handled in St George that involved similar scenarios.
“In short, every check deposited into (Murty’s) account since Nov. 1 has been reported as forged or fraudulently deposited,” the detective wrote in the report.
As a result of the parallel investigations conducted by investigators in St. George and with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, charges were later filed by both agencies.
The defendant is scheduled to make an initial appearance Thursday in 5th District Court and remains in custody on $26,440 bail.
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