CASPER, Wyo – A Mills woman pleaded not guilty to charges of theft and forgery in Natrona County District Court this week after police said she repeatedly altered and deposited checks written to her by customers she cleaned for would have.
Heather Jo Schmaltz, 43, is charged with stealing $2,640 by altering dates and amounts on checks and depositing them with her credit union via remote deposit – a feature where customers deposit checks by taking photos on their phones .
Schmaltz was also arrested and charged this summer in another case, in which she allegedly opened six fraudulent loans on behalf of clients while working at a payday lender. Schmaltz has yet to be charged in this case.
Schmaltz is presumed innocent until proven guilty or confessed.
The case of the altered checks began in the summer of 2021, when a woman who used to hire Schmaltz to clean her home showed bank records to police that the same $120 check was used to withdraw money from her account three times, sources in the affidavit. The date 1/24/20 was changed to 1/24/21 and then to 4/24/21.
Police said other parties who once hired Schmaltz to clean began reporting fraud involving the same check being cashed multiple times. In one case, a check originally written for $100 was cashed for $900, police said.
Both 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. One alleged victim was still awaiting reimbursement until the bank submitted a request to the Federal Reserve.
First Interstate Bank uncovered the fraudulent activity and was able to compensate one of the alleged victims, the affidavit said.
Another suspected victim, who had a bank account with Wells Fargo, showed police that a check written for $180 had been cashed two years later for $1,080. This man shared with investigators a screen shot of the electronic copy of the check on which the written amount had been overwritten and the affidavit had changed “one hundred and eighty dollars” to “one thousand and eighty dollars.”
An executive at the credit union where the money was deposited told police Schmaltz was the sole account holder and it was “nearly impossible” that anyone else deposited the checks. The account was suspended on July 28, 2021.
Police contacted Schmaltz that summer. She said she is visiting family in South Dakota and will contact the investigator at 9 a.m. on August 11, 2021. That day, an attorney called the investigator and said he advised Schmaltz not to meet with police until he could consult with the client and then set up a meeting. The investigators heard nothing back, the affidavit said.
On July 8, 2022, the manager of a payday lender and check cashing center contacted police and said that Schmaltz, an employee, stole approximately $7,500, according to the affidavit filed in the case. A returning customer had attempted to take out a loan and found he had $885 in unpaid debt from a loan the customer had not taken out, the affidavit said.
Security footage showed that Schmaltz was the only occupant of the building at the time the loan was taken out. According to police, she was seen printing a loan agreement and stealing the cash at the time. According to police, Schmaltz repeated the process four times in June 2022, sometimes leaving the redeemed amount stacked askew in the cash register, only to quickly grab it while placing the cash register in the safe, out of camera view.
Between the two cases, Schmaltz faces three counts of grand theft and 13 counts of forgery.