A local church’s $464 donation by check for medical expenses of a young man left paralyzed by an accident was fraudulently converted to a check for $9,956 written to another person, according to a Wilkesboro Police Department report.
A representative of Pleasant Grove Baptist Church in the Clingman community reported July 10 that the $464 was raised by the church’s members for Andrew Hartle of Burlington, said Wilkesboro Police Capt. Tommy Rhodes.
Hartle, grandson of a couple in Clingman, was a high school senior when a swimming accident last fall on a school trip in Puerto Rico left him paralyzed from the waist down. He was a competitive swimmer at the time and class president.
Rhodes said the church representative reported that a Pleasant Grove Baptist check with the same check number as the $464 check was cashed but was written for $9,956 and made to a “Devan Haines-Winder.” He said it was reported to Wilkesboro police because the church banks with First National Bank, which has an office in Wilkesboro.
The church representative told the Wilkes Journal-Patriot that the church became aware of what happened when it received its June statement from First National Bank, which showed a check payment of $9,956 from the church to “Devan Haines-Winder.”
She said a $464 check made out to a fund at BB&T bank for Hartle’s medical expenses was mailed to an address for the bank fund, but the church hasn’t received anything showing it was cashed.
The church representative said that based on what has been learned so far, it appears an unauthorized person obtained the $464 check after it was mailed and used its information to create a fraudulent Pleasant Grove Baptist Church check for $9,956 made out to “Devan Haines-Winder.” It isn’t known if he is even a real person, she said.
The signature on the fraudulent check was a forged version of the signature on the check for $464, said the church representative.
According to Rhodes’ report, an employee of First National Bank in Wilkesboro determined that the check for $9,956 was cashed with USAA Bank in San Antonio, Texas.
The church representative said it also was determined that the $9,956 check was cashed by making an online deposit, which means there would be no security video showing a person cashing the check.
She said that so far, it isn’t clear if the church will receive a $9,956 reimbursement from First National Bank. “Our insurance company has filed a claim, but we don’t know how it will turn out,” she added.
Pleasant Grove Baptist still plans to contribute $464 to the fund for Hartle’s medical expenses to fulfill the intentions of members who donated that amount, said the church representative.
The church was advised by the bank to establish a new checking account and is doing so, she added.
The church representative also said that a bank representative stated that banking online avoids the risks of checks being lost or stolen.