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City councilman urges zero tolerance, harsher punishment for fake check scams

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Posted at 2:53 PM, Sep 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-25 17:53:29-04

SAN DIEGO (CNS) - San Diego City Councilman Chris Cate urged prosecutors Friday to take a zero-tolerance stance on predatory scams involving fraudulent checks, particularly amid the COVID-19 pandemic when people may be especially susceptible to fraud.

In a letter sent Friday to California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, the councilman suggested removing the possibility of prosecuting Penal Code 476 -- which makes creating or passing a fake check a crime -- as a misdemeanor, increasing the fine amount and maximum jail sentence for those found guilty, and assigning additional Department of Justice resources to investigate check fraud complaints.

The councilman wrote that scams in the form of fake check deposits "are becoming widespread in Southern California and are causing our most vulnerable to lost thousands of dollars they cannot afford."

Cate said one such fraudulent check was recently received by one of his staff members, which appeared authentic and bore the name of a "legitimate financial institution."

He said he worried that with high unemployment rates amid the pandemic, people would be more likely to fall prey to scams of this sort.

"Taken as a whole, these measures will send a clear message to those who would attempt to prey on the most vulnerable and susceptible in our society that California stands with consumers and will not tolerate this fraudulent conduct," Cate wrote.

A copy of Cate's letter, which features examples of a fraudulent check and typical accompanying letter from a supposedly legitimate company, can be viewed at https://www.sandiego.gov/sites/default/files/predatory_check_scam_enforcement.pdf.