Court docs: Arrests could signal cash advance scam targeting casinos

Deshmia Alexander (left) and Keonna Cole (right)

ANDERSON, Ind. – Two women were arrested last week in connection with what state authorities say may be an organized operation to use fake debit cards to get cash advances.

Deshmia Alexander, 22, Indianapolis, and Keonna Cole, 28, Fort Wayne, are charged in remarkably similar cases that happened in November and December.

According to court documents, Alexander received $2,400 in two transactions at Hoosier Park Racing & Casino on Nov. 22. Agents with the Indiana Gaming Commission said video showed her arriving at the casino around 3:30 a.m. and using a Fifth Third Bank debit card to get cash advances. Two other attempts to get money during the transaction were denied.

Investigators contacted the bank and discovered Alexander opened an account on Nov. 10. She deposited a fraudulent check for $2,493.58, according to court documents. The check was from Forge Industrial Staffing and payable to Alexander.

On. Nov. 25, the check was returned as “unable to locate.” Investigators later discovered the account number was invalid.

Charges against Alexander include fraud on a financial institution and theft, both felony counts.

On Dec. 3, investigators said Cole was involved in a similar case. She went to the casino around 5:30 a.m. and used a Fifth Third Bank debit card to get a $2,400 cash advance. Cole had opened the account on Nov. 11 and deposited a check for $3,497.50 from Target Distribution Inc.

As in Alexander’s case, the check was eventually returned as “unable to locate.” Cole faces felony counts of fraud on a financial institution and theft.

According to court documents, investigators have seen several cases like these since August 2016 at both Hoosier Park and Indiana Grand casinos, and believe they are linked.

“The relationship of these cases further support additional felony charges of criminal gang activity and corrupt business influence,” investigators concluded in probable cause affidavits filed in the case.