Alabamians are known for charity. When we see or hear about someone in trouble, we open our wallets. We're also known for our support of the military.
But now it looks like someone overseas is preying on those patriotic sentiments to steal money.
Billie Blankenship - her friends call her Shorty - is a homebody. She likes pro wrestling, reading, and chatting on the internet.
"I went into the military chatrooms," she said. "I was talking to this guy Michael Stevens."
It seemed like a perfectly natural thing to do. Shorty's dad was in the Navy. Her stepfather, a Marine, and so was her chat buddy, Michael Stevens.
"He was supposed to be in Nigeria," Blankenship explained, "so I was being sweet, nice to him because because he was in the military overseas away from his family."
They chatted for a month or so. He even sent her what is supposed to be his picture. Then, he asked Shorty to cash a 28 hundred dollar check for him. "He needed some money, some cash to pay his bills," she said.
After the check arrived, Shorty cashed it at a local hair salon, then went to a grocery store to send it to Nigeria. No problem at all. At least, until a second check arrived. When Shorty tried to cash it, the police were waiting.
Wetumpka police detective Gary Edwards explained why. "I spoke with Delta Airlines corporate security, and they advised me these checks have been popping up all over the Southeastern United States."
As you might guess, the entire thing is a fraud. There are no U.S. Marines in Nigeria. There is no Michael Stevens. Instead, it's a Nigerian man who now has 28-hundred U.S. dollars. And Shorty Blankenship? She's charged with possession of a forged instrument.
"It is a serious crime," Edwards said "and we take this crime seriously."
"I don't trust as much as I used to," said Blankenship. "I don't even leave the house, I just stay in the house."
WSFA spoke with District Attorney Randall Houston Tuedsay. Houston says he does not expect a grand jury to indict Billie Blankenship. That's because she never took a dime even after she cashed the checks. But she might be the exception. Anyone who might try to pass a bad check, even unknowingly, is breaking the law.
As you read earlier, there are a lot of this type fraud going around. Police say if you're contacted like Billie Blankenship was, just walk away from that trouble.
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