Novel check scam lands landscaper in jail |

Novel check scam lands landscaper in jail

Paul Mutschler usually doesn’t write personal checks to people he doesn’t know. Earlier this month, a Garfield man he had hired to do some lawn work reminded him why.

“This guy found a unique way to get my information,” Mutschler, 61, of Mt. Oliver, said Wednesday. “Next time I have to write a check to someone other than a utility, I’ll take them to the bank and watch them cash it.”

Allegheny County police on Tuesday arrested Huey “Jim” Williams, 49, on charges he created $4,500 in bogus checks with Mutschler’s account and routing numbers, then cashed them at Giant Eagle supermarkets.

Williams, of Black Street in Garfield, was in the county jail yesterday on $5,000 bond. He faces a hearing Monday in Mt. Oliver on four counts each of access device fraud, writing bad checks and forgery, and one count of theft.

Police said they are investigating whether someone helped Williams create the bogus checks on a computer. The checks were designed to look like paychecks from his employer, Hospital Central Services of Oakland.

In August, a tenant in one of Mutschler’s rental properties in Highland Park suggested he hire Williams to cut the grass at the apartment building. Mutschler said he paid Williams with a check because he needed a record for tax purposes.

When Mutschler went to the bank a few weeks later, the manager told him his checking account was overdrawn. A printout showed checks with five-digit numbers — his only have four — being cashed in Penn Hills, O’Hara, West Homestead and West Mifflin.

“I made sure to get his address when I wrote him the check, and I’m glad I did,” Mutschler said.

Police quickly traced the checks to Williams, who wrote them to himself and endorsed them with his own signature, according to an affidavit of probable cause filed to support the charges. Surveillance cameras at the supermarkets show Williams cashing the checks.

Mutschler said Northwest Savings Bank and Giant Eagle covered the cost of the checks Williams allegedly forged. But fixing the mess cost him time and caused embarrassment.

“I had to call companies, and people to whom I’d written checks after this and tell them not to deposit them. I had to explain why checks bounced. I’m the one who looks like a jerk,” he said.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.