Poor Spelling Nabs Coinstar Crooks

If only they hadn't spelled "foods" with three Os. 

That's what tipped off an observant clerk that the Coinstar receipt in her hand was a fake. That catch led police to bust open what they said is an elaborate operation that included a fake business and a $5,000 take.

Police said two men bought special inks and stencils and set up A & C Design, police said. The only thing they "designed" was fake receipts they used to bilk money from unsuspecting clerks at several Connecticut supermarkets, police said.

Before they were caught, the men stole more than $5,000 from Stop & Shop, Shaws and Big Y in Manchester, East Hartford, Vernon, Ellington, Tolland and Berlin, Plainville, according to police.

Then came the ill-fated mistake at a Big Y on Oct. 11 – a typo on a receipt. It was for $170.89, “Foods” was spelled “fooods.”

The clerk knew it was counterfeit and told a police officer who was at the store for an unrelated investigation.

The officer took Raymond LeClerc, 33, of Thomaston, into custody in the parking lot and detectives began investigating. They said they obtained search and seizure warrants for the printing equipment, inks, stencils and for cell phone records..

They determined that Gilbert Ely, 41, of Bristol, and Mark Charamut, 32, of South Carolina, had created the counterfeit Coinstar receipts by copying legitimate receipts that they had previously obtained. 

Coinstar machines are the self-service chain sorting machines that you put your loose change into and get receipts to turn in for cash at the customer service counter.

Police said Ely and Charamut would take turns entering various stores with the counterfeit receipts and cash them. In Plainville, they recruited LeClerc to enter the store, police said.

Ely was arrested on Dec. 6 and charged with second-degree forgery, sixth-degree larceny, conspiracy to commit second-degree forgery and sixth-degree conspiracy to commit larceny.

LeClerc was charged with sixth-degree criminal attempt to commit larceny, second-degree forgery and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Several jurisdictions are currently investigating Ely and Charamut and additional arrest warrants are pending.

Charamut has not yet been arrested and if he does not return to Connecticut voluntarily, we will begin extradition proceedings.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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