Check forging trio busted in stolen U-Haul truck
Inside the truck was an estimated 40-50 different peoples’ property. Police are still trying to find all the victims.
Last Thursday around 4:15 p.m. a caller requested police assistance regarding a U-Haul truck that she said she believed to be stolen. The caller was a manager for a U-Haul store in Tulsa. She recognized the vehicle to be a U-Haul truck with all the stickers and insignia removed and with a bogus license plate displayed.
The caller followed the vehicle from Tulsa to Sapulpa, to the Central Bank of Oklahoma on South Mission where the driver of the U-Haul parked it. She was met by two Sapulpa Police Officers: Patrol Officer Skylar Vaughan and Captain Steve Thompson.
When Officer Vaughan arrived on scene she saw two males exit the truck and enter the bank. A female passenger waited in the truck. She was later identified as Crystal Epps.
Officer Vaughan waited outside with Epps while Captain Thompson went into the bank.
Once inside, Captain Thompson saw one of the males, later identified as co-defendant Dominic Gonzales, trying to cash a check. It was later discovered that the owner of the account on which the check was drawn did not write the check, nor did he authorize the check, nor did he know Gonzales, and no one involved had permission to have the check.
The driver of the U-Haul truck, Aaron David Jones, had promptly entered a small bathroom once inside the bank. Captain Thompson stood outside the restroom door, waiting for him to exit, while requesting additional units to respond.
Detective Sergeant Amy Nichols arrived on scene a few minutes later.
Defendant Jones was in the restroom for an extended period of time and various banging and clanging noises could be heard coming from inside.
Finally Jones exited, appearing nervous. Captain Thompson was then able to enter the small, sterile bathroom, where he found a .9mm round of ammunition in the garbage receptacle. Several minutes later he discovered a fully loaded 9mm Kahr pistol hidden above the ceiling tiles in the restroom. Along with the pistol was an extra loaded magazine, a syringe, and a small empty glass vial. The vial was later field tested and tested positive for methamphetamine.
Dispatch advised that Jones currently had an outstanding warrant out of Arkansas and that they would extradite.
Detective Nichols spoke with the original caller who stated that the U-Haul in question had been rented by a woman on January 10, 2019. It was due back two or three days later. The truck was never returned back to U-Haul and had been wrecked since the time of its rental. Sapulpa Police later returned the truck back to the U-Haul store.
Inside the truck prior to its release officers discovered personal property belonging to defendants Aaron Jones and Crystal Epps. Additionally there were numerous checks displaying names and addresses from Broken Arrow, Tulsa, Collinsville, Sapulpa, and possibly other towns. There was an estimated 40-50 different peoples’ property who the Sapulpa Police are still investigating as probable victims of theft and other fraudulent crimes. Some checks and been washed and altered. Some checks were determined to be fictitious and had been reprinted or created. Also in the truck were a printer, various types of printing paper, a kit labelled “Fake ID Kit” that contained a Exacto knives and razor blades, several other kits containing various tools and small drills, a mask, and a variety of tools and equipment suspected of being used to create fictitious documents used for forgery and fraud. There was one vehicle title that had been altered and other altered documents.
There was also a fake Oklahoma Driver’s License bearing Aaron Jones’s photo but with the personal identity of Henry Weaver, and this fake license bore the seal of the state of Oklahoma.
There were multiple washed and stolen checks found in the truck from various people from various addresses who were unaware that these checks were found in the possession of Jones, Gonzales, and Epps.
A criminal history check indicates that Jones has multiple felony convictions in multiple areas, some from over the years and some recent.
In a post-Miranda interview with Jones he claimed that his check capers were just “her and me,” referring to co-defendant Epps. He indicated that law enforcement should focus on “real crime” and that what he does is “petty.”
He said he has a problem with methamphetamine and he has spent 13 years between prison and jails. While on scene at the bank he claimed to have no knowledge of a gun. However, Sapulpa Police believe he fled to the bathroom to conceal the gun and drug paraphernalia.
Epps stated that she did not know that the U-Haul truck was stolen and that Jones, her boyfriend, had been driving it for around for about a week. She further stated that she knew nothing about the check that Dominic Gonzales attempted to present at the bank earlier that day. She said that in the past she did assist Jones with passing bogus or fictitious checks at various stores in Tulsa, Owasso, and Broken Arrow. She said they often would target Walmart and Atwood’s stores, and others. She said they would purchase items with the fraudulent checks that she and Johnson would either wash or with checks he created using multiple accounts from various people. They often would return the purchased merchandise for cash. She said Jones is very skilled at creating fake and fraudulent documents and altering documents. She claimed she did not know where Jones obtained the original checks. She too admitted she had a methamphetamine problem, but said she had been clean for about a week.
Records indicate Epps has no felony convictions. However she was just charged with Misuse of Forged/Counterfeit ID, Obtaining Money by Trick or Deception, Knowingly Concealing Stolen Property, and Larceny of Merchandise by Retailer.
In a Post-Miranda interview with Gonzales he stated that he did not know that the U-Haul truck driven by Jones was stolen. He gave several different versions of events. He said he assumed the check he attempted to cash was for yard work he had done and he did not question why it was not made payable to him, but that later he realized the check might not be legitimate.
About the Author
Born and raised in Sapulpa, Elizabeth has a Bachelor’s degree in American Studies and is a former banker. She is thrilled to be back in her hometown with her husband Michael and to be contributing to The Sapulpa Times.