Sophisticated check scam operation reaches Middle Tennessee

Laveander Ashford (Courtesy: Florence Police Department)

PORTLAND, Tenn. (WKRN) – A sophisticated multi-state check scam operation has reached Middle Tennessee. One man in Portland is now out $8,500, and police fear others have been victimized.

Laveander Ashford is being called the prime suspect by police, who say he is a con man out of Alabama. He’s accused of stealing tens of thousands of dollars from businesses.

Jody McDowell owns Cash n’ Checks across the street from the Portland Police Department. On Oct. 2, Ashford reportedly walked in with a check made out to him from a Kentucky car lot.

In the memo line, the check stated “purchase of vehicle.”

“He’s on foot, and she questions it, and he said I just sold my car to a car dealership in Bowling Green, Kentucky, and she calls to verify, and every verification process says the check is ok, the funds are there, cash it, and the guy is gone with my money,” McDowell told News 2.

“We take the risks on the checks, we give them the cash up front and we take the risk, and that didn’t pay off in this situation,” he added.

(Photo: WKRN)

McDowell has been in the check cashing business for 15 years. He’s also a Sumner County sheriff’s deputy, so he’s seen every conceivable scam.

But this one was sophisticated.

“They forwarded the business phone to their own cell phone, so when the business called to verify they issued the check, it is the bad guys on the other end answering saying sure we issued the check we bought the vehicle from them,” McDowell explained.

Portland police are now working with Alabama law enforcement, trying to find Ashford. He’s accused of doing the same thing in Alabama to several businesses there.

“He is currently wanted in the state of Alabama. He is on the move, traveling, he knows he is wanted in Alabama so he is moving farther north,” said Chief Anthony Heavner.

And what would he say to Mr. Ashford?

“I’d say you need to be off the street and behind bars; you’ve had too many victims. I won’t stop till he is behind bars,” McDowell told News 2.

Police said the account number on the check doesn’t match the auto dealership, but the account number is real, associated with an unknown account with plenty of money.

Police are investigating how the bad guy got access to that info as well.

If you have any information on the whereabouts of Ashford, or think you may have been scammed by him, call Portland police at 615-325-3434.