FARGO — Several people have been charged for their alleged parts in a scam to steal mail from Fargo’s industrial park and recruit homeless people to cash fraudulent checks.
Three Class C felony charges — two forgery and one theft — were filed Monday, Jan. 6, in Cass County District Court against 31-year-old Daniel Edward Hengst, of Fargo. He’s at least the third person to be charged in relation to the investigation known as “Operation Homeless.”
Last year, two Class C felonies — one each for theft and forgery — were filed against 44-year-olds Hani Oglah Tahat, of San Antonio, Texas, and John Burns Ross, of Fargo. Court documents detail the three’s involvement in a scam spearheaded by several suspects in Georgia.
In June, authorities investigated 17 cases in which suspects rented vehicles, drove to Fargo and stole mail from the city’s industrial area, according to court documents. Checking account and routing numbers found in the mail were duplicated, investigators said.
The Georgia group then recruited members of the local transient population to cash the checks, court documents said. A search warrant stated the individuals who cashed the check would get a 10% cut.
Tahat, Ross and Hengst allegedly tried to cash several checks. Tahat is accused of trying to cash $4,359 in bad checks, while Ross and Hengst each allegedly tried to cash almost $5,000 in forged checks.
The latter two have been “very cooperative in this case and provided information” that was helpful to police. Police believe Tahat has left the Fargo area.
Federal charges have not been filed in the case, though it has been turned over to federal investigators, authorities confirmed.
Similar scams have occurred in Hillsboro and Grand Forks in North Dakota, Sioux Falls and Watertown in South Dakota and Hallock in Minnesota, court documents said. There also have been scams of this nature reported in Kentucky, Colorado, Maryland and Illinois.