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ID theft investigation uncovers drug operation

By Staff | Mar 11, 2008

An investigation into an unknown female presenting forged and closed account checks to area business was initiated by the Estherville Police Department on March 3 resulted in one arrest.

Police were informed by several local businesses that they had received checks that had been returned to them on a closed account. It was determined that some of the checks were counter checks from Pinnacle Bank of Omaha, NE, and others were closed account checks in the name of Laura or Paul Jones.

Estherville Police Detective Greg VanLangen conducted an investigation in an attempt to identify the person responsible for the closed account checks and the forged counter checks.

He was able to determine that a female suspect Laura Wirth, also known as Laura Jones, wrote both sets of checks. Officers did find that Laura Wirth had recently moved to Estherville and that she was a fugitive wanted in Nebraska for absconding from probation.

Officers were able to locate Laura Wirth in the 1400 block of First Avenue South and were involved in a foot pursuit with her after she ran from officers. Wirth was subsequently captured and arrested on charges of interference with official acts, two counts of identity theft and the warrant for probation violation from Nebraska.

In conjunction with the check forgery case, officers also received information there were checks, drugs and drug paraphernalia being used and kept at a residence in the 700 block of North Fifth Street. Officers executed a search warrant on March 7, at the residence located at 709 North Fifth Street in Estherville.

Police said Kelly Haar, 50, of Estherville was arrested at that residence for possession of drug paraphernalia.

Wirth is in custody in the Emmet County Jail on a $13,000 bond on the local charges and no bond on the violation of probation warrant from Nebraska.

Haar was placed in the Emmet County Jail and released on March 8.

Captain Brent Shatto said the case is ongoing and further charges are likely in the future. “I would like to commend the officers for their thorough work on this case and completing it in a timely fashion. This is also a good time to remind citizens that if they intend to take a check from a person they do not know, to exercise caution and obtain recognized types of photo identification.”

There have been several reports to the police department recently of people receiving checks in the mail from lotteries, advertisements for products for sale and mystery shopper scams.

“Keep in mind there is no such thing as free money, and if it sounds too good to be true, it is. If businesses are soliciting you to ‘help’ them with their banking issues, they are not legitimate businesses. Legitimate businesses work with banks in their own area.”