KILLEEN, TX (FOX 44) – UPDATE: An investigation into checks written to a Killeen area church, but which later turned out to be cashed by others after being altered, may have led to the discovery of a check theft syndicate operating in the area.
Court papers filed in support of arrest warrants in the church theft case indicated the possibility of wider spread incidents of check thefts and forgery.
A second arrest in the original case was made this month after the first suspect was arrested back in the summer. The investigation began when parishioners of the Marlboro Heights Missionary Baptist Church on Illinois Avenue in Killeen noticed unusual markings on checks they left in a church mailbox. Several of the congregants reported thinking their church donations were stolen, with checks coming back as having the payee changed.
The investigation was initially because the checks were drawn on different banks, and considerable detective work was necessary to trace them and get information from the banks involved. Initially, Amanda Kay Byrd was identified as a suspect. It was determined that she was not an employee or agent for the church. Byrd was arrested during the summer, with an arrest affidavit stating that she implicated Judith Armstrong as also being involved. Armstrong was arrested this month.
The arrest affidavit for Byrd stated that she was involved in check fraud for a year as part of a syndicate that included multiple other members. The affidavit stated that it was at that point that she implicated Armstrong.
The affidavit further stated that Byrd said her syndicate stole and cashed checks from other places than just the church. The affidavits for Byrd and Armstrong did not name other specific people as suspects or identify where or how many other checks may have been involved. No additional information was available, as of Friday, on additional suspects.
Byrd remained in the Bell County Jail Friday on fraud and theft charges after being booked in July 20. Jail records indicated Armstrong, who had been booked into the jail Tuesday on five counts of fraudulent/use of identifying information of the elderly, has posted bond.
The investigation was reported to still be open.