A Los Osos man was arrested Thursday in connection with a counterfeit check scheme originating in Nigeria.
Detectives served an arrest and search warrant at Steven Acker's residence Thursday, according to a news release from the San Luis Obispo Police Department. Hundreds of counterfeit checks and money orders totaling $976,692 were reportedly seized.
San Luis Obispo police started investigating the scheme a few weeks ago, according to the news release. The Nigerian scam is a common one in which the recipient of a check deposits it immediately and forwards some or all of the money via Western Union to another person. Several days later, the bank determine the check is counterfeit. The person who deposited the check is then out the money.
The San Luis Obispo Police Department was made aware of the scam when Acker allegedly tried to use a UPS account without permission to ship 48 envelopes containing fake cashier's checks, according to the news release. The checks were from banks in Illinois and Arizona, but the return address on the packages were from Morro Bay. One of the return addresses used was the Morro Bay Police Department address.
One Jan. 27, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent from Kentucky contacted San Luis Obispo detectives after they seized a suspicious package at a DHL shipping hub. The package was originally from Nigeria, shipped via Paris, and was addressed to Acker in Los Osos, according to officials. The package contained $534,165 worth of fraudulent money orders from the U.S. Postal Service, Moneygram and Albertson's MoneyGram.
On Thursday, detectives served the warrants at Acker's home on 16th Street in Los Osos.
Acker, 61, was arrested on suspicion of felony forgery, possession of bad checks or money orders, making or possession fictitious checks and grand theft. He was booked at County Jail; his bail was set at $500,000.
The San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Department, ICE, the US Secret Service and the Narcotic Task Force assisted with the investigation.