CASPER, Wyo.– A Mills woman pleaded not guilty to theft and forgery charges in Natrona County District Court this week after police say she repeatedly altered and deposited checks written by clients for whom she had cleaned.
Heather Jo Schmaltz, 43, is accused of stealing $2,640 by altering the dates and amounts written on checks and cashing them at her credit union via remote deposit – a feature by which customers deposit checks in taking pictures on their phone.
Schmaltz was also arrested and charged this summer in a separate case in which she allegedly opened six fraudulent loans on behalf of clients while working at a payday loan service. Schmaltz has not yet been brought to justice in this case.
Schmaltz is presumed innocent until proven guilty or until he pleads guilty.
The altered check case began in the summer of 2021 when a woman who used to hire Schmaltz to clean her house showed police bank statements of the same $120 check used to withdraw cash. money from his account three times, according to the affidavit. The date “01/24/20” was replaced by “01/24/21”, then “04/24/21”.
Police said other parties who had previously hired Schmaltz to clean up began reporting fraud involving the same check being cashed multiple times. In one case, a check originally written for $100 was cashed again for $900, police said.
The bank of one of the alleged victims and the defendant’s credit union told investigators that the remote deposit feature proved problematic, according to the affidavit. An alleged victim was still awaiting reimbursement pending a petition from the bank to the Federal Reserve.
First Interstate Bank discovered the fraudulent activity and was able to reimburse one of the alleged victims, according to the affidavit.
Another alleged victim, who banked in Wells Fargo, showed police that a check for $180 had been cashed two years later for $1,080. That man shared a screenshot of the electronic copy of the check with investigators where the spelled out amount had been written, changing “one hundred and eighty dollars” to “one thousand and eighty dollars,” according to the affidavit.
An official at the credit union where the money was deposited told police that Schmaltz was the sole account holder and that it would be “almost impossible” for anyone else to have deposited the checks. The account was frozen on July 28, 2021.
The police contacted Schmaltz that summer. She said she was visiting family in South Dakota and would contact the investigator at 9 a.m. on August 11, 2021. That day, an attorney called the investigator to tell him that he had advised Schmaltz not to meet the police until he could talk. with the client, then set up a meeting. Investigators have not had a response, according to the affidavit.
On July 8, 2022, the manager of a payday lender and check cashing center contacted police saying Schmaltz, an employee, stole approximately $7,500, according to the affidavit filed in that case. . A returning client had attempted to take out a loan and discovered he had $885 of outstanding debt on the books from a loan that the client denied having taken out, according to the affidavit.
Security footage revealed Schmaltz was the sole occupant of the building when the loan was taken out. At that time, police say she can be seen printing out a loan agreement and taking the money. According to police, Schmaltz repeated the process four times in June 2022, sometimes leaving the cashed amount stacked askew in the till in order to grab it quickly while placing the till in the safe, out of view of the camera.
Between the two cases, Schmaltz faces three counts of grand larceny and 13 counts of forgery.