Police halt escapee's crime spree
Man arrested after trying to pass fake check at Wal-Mart in Moulton
By Kristen Bishop
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MOULTON — Moulton police stopped a Georgia escapee's crime spree Saturday night after the man tried to pass a fake check at Wal-Mart, authorities said.
David G. Helton, 59, was serving four years for first-degree forgery at the Men's Correctional Facility in Savannah, Ga., when he escaped Sept. 4.
After the jailbreak, Helton traveled across Tennessee and North Alabama, printing and cashing counterfeit checks, said Police Chief Lyndon McWhorter. Most of the checks were cashed in Wal-Marts, but some were passed at The Home Depot, Lowe's and Dillard's, he said.
On Jan. 4 and 5, Helton passed about $4,000 worth of counterfeit checks, authorities said.
His forgery campaign halted abruptly after he tried to pass a check Saturday at about 8 p.m. at Wal-Mart on Alabama 157. He passed one check in the electronics department, but drew the suspicion of a store clerk when trying to pass another check with a different name at the customer service desk.
The clerk contacted Moulton police, and McWhorter and officer Chris Waldrep responded.
"The clerk gave me the driver license and the check, and I asked if he was still in the building," said McWhorter.
Greeter helped with arrest
The police chief said he partially owed the arrest to an attentive employee.
"What really helped me was a Wal-Mart greeter checked his bags as he was trying to leave, and that slowed him down enough so that I could take him into custody," he said.
While searching Helton's car, police found enough evidence to charge him with more than 70 counts of possession of forgery instruments.
"We inventoried the car, and in plain view on the front seat was a plastic filing folder with numerous forged checks and false IDs," said McWhorter.
Police also confiscated a computer from the car, but are waiting for a warrant to search its hard drive.
For each counterfeit check Helton printed, he also printed a corresponding driver license, said McWhorter. Police can charge Helton with a separate forgery charge for each fake check and license.
Helton wrote the counterfeit checks for less than $40 each time. He would purchase a few small items and ask for $20 cash back, said McWhorter.
"He purchased a small amount of items so not to raise a lot of suspicions," McWhorter said. "These aren't perfect counterfeit driver licenses either, but for a clerk that's in a hurry, it could be overlooked."
McWhorter said Helton will face more than 70 counts of possession of a forgery instrument, but that's not all.
Even after being apprehended by police, Helton continued to lie about his identity, leading to three counts of second-degree forgery and one count of using false information to avoid arrest, authorities said.
He gave Moulton police a Tennessee driver license with the name William Bradford Foster, then signed three fingerprint sheets with that alias.
"The license looks real, but we cannot confirm that there's another person by that name at this time," said McWhorter.
Helton and an unidentified woman rented the car he was driving from a company in Tennessee. McWhorter said police have not charged anyone else, but suspect others were involved.
Helton remained in Lawrence County Jail on Monday. Officials have not set his bond amount. McWhorter said if Helton makes bond, he will be transported to other districts where he faces similar charges.
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