LINCOLN — Don't trust the state — at least when it comes to cashing checks that appear to be written by the State of Nebraska.
State Treasurer Don Stenberg warned financial institutions and businesses Friday to be cautious about state checks, also called warrants, in light of several recent forgery attempts in Omaha.
He also urged Nebraskans to avoid cashing checks for strangers.
A 19-year-old Omaha woman, Catalina Gomes, has been arrested in Douglas County on three counts of second-degree forgery and an arrest warrant has been issued for a second Omaha woman.
The charges are Class III felonies punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
According to Deputy Douglas County Attorney Matthew Kuhse, Gomes allegedly passed a forged state check for $4,032 at a Walmart store in Omaha and a $4,431 state check at American National Bank in Omaha.
She is alleged to have unsuccessfully attempted to pass a forged state check for $8,223 at American National Bank.
Kuhse said an attentive bank employee became suspicious about the large check because of the color, the placement of the wording and the fact that it was for twice the amount of other state checks the bank had cashed.
The bank called the treasurer's staff, who found additional inconsistencies and alerted authorities.
Omaha Police Detective Sandra Wylie said an arrest warrant has been issued for a 20-year-old Omaha woman who allegedly cashed a state check for $4,480 at an Omaha Walmart. It is believed the two women were working together.
Stenberg said it is not known if Gomes and the woman being sought were cashing forged checks on their own or if they are a part of a larger-scale, organized operation.
He said businesses and financial institutions should be alert to unusual circumstances when presented with state checks.
They should familiarize themselves with unique features including color, paper quality, and placement of key elements such as the treasurer's signature, State of Nebraska name and image of the Capitol.
Most state transactions are done electronically but paper checks are still used for some tax returns, payments to vendors and paychecks.
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