Salt Lake City police have arrested a woman in connection with an auto theft scam that has at least three victims in Utah and possibly more.
Detectives were alerted to the scam after a man put his car up for sale on the Craigslist Web site. A woman contacted the man and said she would buy it, said Salt Lake City police detective Jared Wihongi. The woman claimed she had just been in an auto accident and would pay for the car with her insurance check from Allstate, she said.
At one point, a man claiming to be from Allstate even called the car owner to verify the spelling of his name so he could allegedly make a check out to him, Wihongi said.
But after the sale, when the victim attempted to cash the check at the bank, he discovered it was fake, Wihongi said.
After purchasing the vehicle, the woman attempted to quickly get rid of it by putting it up for sale again on Craigslist, but at a much lower price, he said. Detectives found the car on Craigslist and contacted the woman while posing as potential buyers.
The woman told the undercover officers to meet her Tuesday at South Towne Mall in Sandy, where she claimed she worked. When she arrived to sell the car, she was placed under arrest.
The woman, who was wearing a dark wig, added an additional element into her scam. When she arrived at the mall, she wore what appeared to be a work ID badge that used the last name of the person from whom she had just bought the car, Wihongi said. Detectives later found additional fake ID badges with other names, presumably those of other victims she scammed, he said.
Further investigation uncovered a similar incident in American Fork in mid-November, where a person sold a car to a woman who claimed she had been in an accident and wanted to pay for the vehicle with her Allstate check, Wihongi said.
On Wednesday morning, detectives learned of another similar incident in Davis County.
Jodie Lea Reed, who turns 30 on Thursday, was booked into the Salt Lake County Jail for investigation of theft, a second-degree felony; two counts of forgery, both second-degree felonies; and being a fugitive from justice. Reed has a warrant out for her arrest from Colorado for auto theft, Wihongi said. She was being held Wednesday without bail.
The search continued Wednesday for a the man police believe was helping Reed. Wihongi said Reed was not being cooperative with investigators or offering any information about who the man is or where they were staying. Investigators do not believe the woman had been in Utah very long.
"For a scam like this to work you have to move around," Wihongi said.
Investigators continued to look Wednesday for additional victims. Anyone with information can call Salt Lake City police at 799-3429.
Wihongi said the scam is a good reminder for potential car buyers and sellers to verify the identity of a person and the authenticity of a check.
"Take any steps necessary to find out if it's a good buyer and good account," he said.In this case, red flags could have been found on the fake Allstate checks. On those police have recovered, the word "cashier" is spelled "chashier," Wihongi said.
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