FARGO — With the help of a food delivery driver and a hotel clerk, the owner of a local cleaning business was able to find the person she said was scamming her company with fake checks.
Trisha Lake, owner and CEO of TLC Cleaning, said she learned of the fraud around Monday, Jan. 6, or Tuesday, Jan. 7, when she got notice that her business had a bounced check at a Holiday Stationstore that had been sent to collections.
She notified her bank and submitted an identity theft report to the police, but it wasn't until later in the week that she got a lead that brought her to the source of the problem.
When Lake checked her business voicemail Thursday night, she had a message from a frustrated Food Dudes delivery driver looking for a person who made a $150 order from Applebees to a local hotel.
Lake called Food Dudes to get the name and email address from the order and informed the manager that someone was writing fraudulent checks in her business's name.
She then called the hotel and asked if anyone had checked in under the name from the order. The desk clerk said no one came up under the name, but then Lake asked him to look the name up on Facebook.
Moments after Lake got off the phone with the clerk, he called back. A woman had approached the hotel front desk and asked if Food Dudes had arrived with her order.
"He said the second he looked up at her, it was her face from the profile picture," Lake recounted. "He calls me back and he goes: 'I have her.'"
Lake then called the police and arranged for Food Dudes to return and complete the order.
When the driver returned, the woman attempted to pay with a check, saying that her boss was paying for the food.
By this point, police arrived at the hotel. Officers ran the woman's name and found she had outstanding warrants. Lake watched them bust open the door of the woman's hotel room to take her into custody.
Lake said she is grateful for her community and the Fargo Police Department for their help. She said she plans to thank the delivery driver and hotel clerk in a big way.
Her main concern now is that it takes about three weeks to get notice of bounced checks, so there could be hundreds more. In addition to the Holiday check, she received notice of two other checks just this week.
Still, Lake is relieved to have stopped the fraud and also sees some humor in the situation.
“I’m still kind of laughing because it was kind of like a hardcore investigation,” she said. “(It’s) funny how it played out.”
Police have since obtained a warrant to search the hotel room, where Lake believes they may find materials for producing fake checks.