By: Melina Matthes
OMAHA (kptm) - Three men are under arrest and charged with forgery, but police that's just the start of the story.
They're homeless and accused of trying to cash fake checks, but others are on the loose and police say they're the ones who put the homeless men up to it all.
Lincoln police arrested Paul Bellew, Phillip Wylie and James Thompson.
Police say other men got these guys to cash over $20,000 in checks in exchange for money, food and a hotel room.
Police say its part of a nationwide scam called "Operation Homeless," where thieves recruit the homeless to commit crimes.
A new scam is targeting those less fortunate...the homeless. David Kight says, "I'd show them my cane."
We've heard of the elderly being taken advantage of but now police say criminals are going after those living on the streets and using them to cash fake checks. Eugene Shaeffer has been staying at the Siena Francis House for two months, he says, "that's kind of scary to think that they're doing that."
Police say the men were asked to cash a check at a local bank and those staying at the Siena Francis House say it's all because they were an easy target. "Ya know it's easy to beat up an old man or a person that's frozen half to death and they don't have to worry about…its just easy prey," Kight says.
Executive Director Mike Saklar says he was appalled when he heard about the scam. He took action immediately and alerted his entire staff and they've been notifying everyone staying at the shelter. "We're telling them just to be aware, if it looks too good to be true, then it's typically a scam," Saklar says.
He says for him, it hits too close to home. "Homeless is just another vulnerable population out there. They're easy pickings for some people. I think that they know that these people might be desperate for money," Saklar says.
Omaha police say this hasn't been a problem here, however they do urge anyone who sees someone harassing a homeless person to call 911.
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