WEST WENDOVER — Three Salt Lake City area residents were arrested by West Wendover police early Tuesday morning on check fraud and drug charges.
West Wendover Police Sgt. David Wiskerchen said officers went about 1 a.m. mountain time to a West Wendover casino when they were called after a man seen on the premises was identified as someone who had defrauded the casino.
The man had left by the time officers arrived, but two hours later he was located based on descriptions of him and his car. Mark Thomas Banyai, 40, of Midvale, Utah, and Jerry A. Coombs, 54, of Salt Lake City, were arrested and Wiskerchen said after obtaining a search warrant for their car and their hotel room, officers found more than $3,000 in cash and more than $33,000 in stolen checks. Officers also found what they believe to be meth and heroin in the hotel room.
According to Wiskerchen, it was determined Banyai and Coombs had been “all over town” cashing stolen checks.
Banyai was charged with 37 felony counts of possession of a forged instrument, uttering a forged instrument, burglary, possession of stolen property, destruction of evidence, DUI revoked license and five counts of identity theft. His bail is $206,264.
Wiskerchen said the charge of destruction of evidence stems from Banyai allegedly trying to eat some meth he was able to conceal while in the station’s holding cell. An officer noticed Banyai behaving strangely and upon inspection found Banyai had managed to recover a small amount of meth and consumed some of it. Banyai was observed for three hours in the holding cell and during the drive from West Wendover to the Elko County Jail. He showed no signs of being ill from ingesting the meth.
Coombs was charged with driving on a revoked license, two counts of possessing a forged instrument, seven counts of possessing stolen property and burglary. His bail is $45,000.
A woman identified as Kelli Troylynn Rich, 49, of Sandy, Utah, who was connected to Coombs and Banyai, was located at another casino and denied knowledge of any bad checks. When searched by officers, a hypodermic needle and drugs were reportedly found on her.
Rich was charged with burglary, possession not for sale of a controlled substance and two counts of uttering a forged instrument for her role in the alleged check-passing scheme. Her bail is $20,000.
Wiskerchen said some of the checks have been tied to eight incidents from the Salt Lake City area involving stolen checks.
Coincidentally, Banyai was arrested Sept. 20 by the same officer for possession of a schedule one drug, possession of stolen property and credit card fraud. Wiskerchen said those charges are still pending with the district attorney’s office.