Check-forgery suspect nabbed at store

Local business owners will likely breathe easier this week, with Millville-area resident Dean R. Mitchell behind bars.

Millsboro police ended his alleged spree of check thefts and forgeries on Tuesday, Jan. 3. According to Police Chief John Murphy, employees at Food Lion and Happy Harry’s (both in Millsboro) had identified Mitchell earlier in the day. “We were aware he was in the area,” Murphy said.

Mitchell returned to Food Lion later in the day, and employees called the police department to let them know he’d come back, Murphy said. Officers approached him as he was shopping, Murphy noted, and took him into custody without incident.

He was later handed over to the Delaware State Police (DSP). And DSP’s Sgt. Doug Hudson (financial crimes unit) had plenty of charges waiting.

Mitchell allegedly stole and forged signatures on dozens and dozens of checks locally, including at the Food Lions in Selbyville and Millville, Hocker’s SuperCenter in Clarksville and G&E north of Ocean View.

Local proprietor Gerry Hocker (G&E) said Mitchell had managed to pass nearly $2,000 in bad checks at the two family-owned businesses, and it was highly unlikely they’d ever have a chance to recoup those losses.

Hudson advised local business owners to make sure their employees followed proper procedures. “Always ask for an ID, and match the ID with the name on the check,” he emphasized.

Murphy said none of the Millsboro shops had suffered losses. “But if people are familiar with the system, they’re able to circumvent it,” he added. It was always possible that a check forger might be working with a dishonest employee, he pointed out.

“If you get someone at your store who’s crooked — that can be devastating to a merchant,” Murphy said.

However Mitchell allegedly managed to pass so many checks, Murphy said he expected state police would probably make charges stick — the financial crimes unit had enough evidence to obtain warrants, he pointed out. “In all likelihood, they’ll be able to obtain a conviction in court,” he concluded.

According to police, Mitchell was charged with 68 criminal offenses, including forgery second degree, theft, theft false pretense, criminal impersonation and burglary.

He was committed to the Sussex Correctional Institution in default of a $51,500 cash-only bond.