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Alleged thief found in Texas

In a case that reaches far beyond the Andalusia city limits, law enforcement recently uncovered the identity of a woman who fled the area after allegedly using a counterfeit check to buy nearly $17,000 worth of merchandise in October.

On Wednesday, Lt. Mike Bowlan of the Andalusia Police Department said the suspect, described in October only as an “unknown white female, age 55-60, driving a red 2006-2008 Dodge Dakota Quad-Cab pickup” was identified as 66-year-old Catherine Boyd Graham of Cleveland, Texas.

Graham is accused of using the counterfeit checks to purchase a $14,000 Kubota diesel tractor with a front-end loader from First Choice Equipment Rental, a $1,875 utility trailer from Jackson Honda and a $700 32-inch flat screen television from Sears over a two-day period last October.

The APD sent out a plea for information on the woman’s identity and that her direction of travel was unknown; however, authorities now know she apparently made her way through Monroeville to Escambia County, Ala., and eventually back to Texas.

“On Tuesday, we had a development in the case and we were able to identify (Graham) who lived in Montgomery County, Texas,” Bowlan said. “We contacted several other (Texas) law enforcement agencies for assistance, such as the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office and their auto theft task force and the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office.

“We were able to provide them with information and they, in turn, were able to go to two residences in Polk and Montgomery counties — where they recovered all the property taken from here,” he said. “Interestingly, they also uncovered a Kawasaki Mule stolen from Monroeville and a Green Egg barbecue grill and a John Deere riding lawn mower stolen from Escambia County, Ala.”

Bowlan said he feels that those three locations are not the only ones hit with the counterfeit check scam.

“The checks in each of the towns had a different name on them — all with completely fictitious information,” he said. “It wouldn’t surprise me if more of them aren’t scattered from here back to Texas. We hope that other victims will come forward, so we might be able to help recover their property.

Graham is currently being held in the Montgomery County, Texas, Jail, awaiting extradition to Covington County. Bowlan said he hopes to plan a trip to Texas sometime during the next week to recover the stolen property and return it to its rightful owners.

Bowlan reminded businesses to be wary of customers attempting to pay for large purchases on weekends and near the close of business time.

“Be cautious,” he said. “With today’s technology, these checks can be made to look very realistic. Take the time to look at driver’s license. If a person is honest, I don’t believe they would get too impatient or aggravated for a business to take a little extra effort to protect themselves.

“We were very fortunate in this case to be able to locate the property,” he said. “These local businesses are small businesses and a loss of this much property hurts them.”

It was a sentiment Jacob Jones of Sears echoed.

“For me $700 is a lot of money,” he said. “My insurance deductible is $1,000, so when that TV was stolen, that was money right off the top of our profit and right out of my pocket. All I can say is that I am most appreciative of the Andalusia Police Department. They did an outstanding job.”