A former St. Paul man allegedly stole more than 100 identities from residents across the metro and used counterfeit checks to buy goods at several stores, according to charges filed Tuesday.
Chu N. Thao, 43, was charged in Ramsey County District Court with one count of identity theft.
He allegedly wrote $7,867.01 in bad checks between January and May of 2015 at stores across the metro, including Fleet Farm, Menards, Marshalls, SuperAmerica, Target and Wal-Mart.
According to the complaint: A Ramsey County sheriff’s deputy arrested Thao in December 2014 for attempting to purchase a gift card at Cub Foods with an apparent counterfeit check. The deputy searched him and found counterfeit checks with accounts from nine victims.
Many of his victims were customers of KleinBank. The bank began forwarding information to the sheriff’s office about compromised accounts, and a sheriff’s investigator obtained surveillance footage showing Thao passing off counterfeit checks from January to May of last year.
The complaint shows that Thao often used counterfeit checks on consecutive days without being caught, ringing up purchases that ranged from a few dozen to several hundred dollars at a time. He also allegedly passed off bad checks at some of the same stores several times, including the Fleet Farm in Oakdale.
The complaint did not specify what Thao purchased.
West St. Paul police arrested Thao’s girlfriend last May, and she told police that she and Thao had learned how to replicate KleinBank’s account numbering, according to the complaint.
The girlfriend told police that they selected accounts at random and called the bank to verify how much money they contained. They then forged checks with an account’s information.
A search warrant executed last May at Thao’s St. Paul apartment yielded check printing paper, check printing ink, stolen checks, a fake driver’s license application, a social security card and W-2 form belonging to someone else and clothes Thao allegedly wore in some of the transactions captured on camera, the complaint said.
Authorities also recovered counterfeit checks, notes listing KleinBank account numbers and a list of more than 40 Minnesota driver’s license numbers or other people that, instead, had Thao’s birth date.
Thao was arrested again in December 2015 for an unrelated mail theft case, and declined to talk to police about the counterfeit check case.
Thao is currently in jail on a check forgery charge filed in Dakota County.
The Ramsey County attorney’s office encourages anyone who thinks they could be a victim in Thao’s case to contact them at RCAOvictiminput@co.ramsey.mn.us or call 651-266-3144.