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Suspect denies leading fraud ring

Sat., March 6, 2010

Meth dealer to blame, Valley man told cops

A convicted methamphetamine maker accused of masterminding a multistate check fraud ring that bilked Spokane businesses out of thousands of dollars strongly denies the allegations.

“I understand what they’re accusing me of,” Ronald R. Foreman said in Spokane County Superior Court on Friday. “I just think it’s preposterous.”

The Spokane Valley man was arrested outside his surveillance camera-equipped home at 13718 E. 21st Ave. Thursday evening as the SWAT team prepared for a raid triggered by what detectives say is a massive financial fraud.

Police think Foreman, 43, manufactured counterfeit checks and identifications to support an expensive lifestyle and buy meth, according to the Spokane Valley Police Department.

More arrests are expected as police continue to investigate up to a dozen people who may have been working for Foreman, including a man jailed last month after a bail bondsman told police he’d threatened him with a gun.

George W. Butrick, 32, is charged with forgery for a fraudulent check cashed Oct. 29, according to court documents. Butrick told police Foreman gave him the check in exchange for tires and that Foreman was known to make fake checks and IDs.

Now Foreman is in Spokane County Jail on $40,000 bond for one count of leading organized crime, a felony that can bring a 15-year prison sentence.

Court documents say he told investigators that Butrick was in charge of the check ring, but investigators are doubtful.

“Foreman was obviously being deceitful during the interview,” according to documents prepared by Detective Kirk Keyser.

Keyser said the investigation was in its “infant stages” and likely involves tens of thousands of dollars if not hundred of thousands. Conspirators often stole account numbers from outgoing mail at residential and roadside mailboxes, police said.

“Victim businesses included Leo’s Studio, Our Golden Flax, Vorpahl-Wing Securities and Sterling Savings,” according to police. “Some checks were produced to look like payroll checks while other phony checks were used to purchase merchandise.”

Catherine Nelson, an employee at Leo’s, told police someone had cashed nearly $8,000 worth of checks that were never approved by the company.

A woman who told police that she was “in a relationship” with Foreman and his wife, Joanna Foreman, said Foreman took 70 percent of the profit from the fraudulent checks, according to court documents.

Foreman was arrested Jan. 12 after he tried paying for more than $1,600 in merchandise at Costco with forged business checks from Our Golden Flax in Chattaroy. He told detectives “he got the checks from his meth dealer” and was promised drugs to cash them, according to court documents.

Foreman pleaded not guilty to two counts of forgery and one count of second-degree theft in that case and has a March trial date.

Foreman was sentenced to 29 months in prison in 2003 for manufacturing methamphetamine, and arrested on bank robbery charges in 2008. The robbery charges were dropped after he pleaded guilty to eight counts of riot in which U.S currency was victimized, according to court records.

He’s to be arraigned on the leading organized crime charge March 16. He’ll likely be charged with drug possession for meth found during his arrest, police said.

Investigators also seized 15 computer hard drives, a safe, at least 13 laptop computers, a pair of flat-screen televisions and other computer components.

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