Phony payroll check leads to arrest

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By Alice Du Pont

Geneva Clines-Ruthedge of Cross City sits in the Gadsden County Jail after she attempted to cash a phony payroll check from the town of Havana. Clines-Rutledge, 24, who is wanted in Georgia and Florida on various check charges, didn't count on an off-duty Gadsden County Sheriff's deputy working at the local Piggly Wiggly when she went there Monday night.

Investigator Brian Faison said he was standing near a cashier in the front of the store around 7 p.m. when he noticed a white car stop at the eastern entrance of the parking lot and he saw a woman get out. He said something seemed strange because the driver returned a few minutes later and parked at the eastern-most part of the parking lot.


"The female walked in and made some remarks, to no one in particular, about the town of Havana as if she worked there. Then she grabbed a cart and put a few snacks in it and went to the cashier. She asked the cashier if she could pay with a payroll check," he said.


Faison said he had never seen the woman before but her demeanor alerted him that something was wrong about the way she got out of the car at the end of the lot and walked up to the store, and how the car was constantly moved closer and closer to the front door that made him suspicious.


"Most people use the same grocery store and I've been there long enough to know the people who come in and out," he said.


Faison told the cashier to stall the woman by telling her that the $470.30 check had to be verified before it could be cashed. The officer and the clerk took the check and went into the office. They called Havana Municipal Building, which was closed, and Faison said he became more suspicious when he recognized the signature on the check. The photo identification she presented belonged to a Lake City woman but the woman bore no resemblance to Clines-Rutledge.  


"I knew that Howard McKinnon was the (city) manager over there and I knew that city managers always sign checks," he said.


He also called the Havana Police Department, trying to gather more information. As he inspected the check he noticed that the lines were slanted and did not line up properly. That's when Faison went back into the store and asked the woman to step into the office.


"She immediately just bolted out of the store running and got into the white car that had pulled up to the front door. I got (into) my car and followed them and when I got so close they knew I had them, the female jumped out of the car with her hands up. The  two males kept riding. When she got out she threw a telephone book in the ditch," he said.


After securing Clines-Rutledge, he called for backup and gave a description of the vehicle. Faison retrieved  the telephone directory that had been thrown in the ditch. When he looked through the directory he found another check, made to the Lake City woman for $470.30. Clines-Rutledge was arrested and charged with two counts of uttering and one count of stolen identity. Faison said she initially claimed that she purchased the driver’s license from a friend in Lake City but he later determined that the license was stolen.


The car in which she was riding, was found about an hour later, abandoned near Interstate 10. The occupants had left the scene.


A typewriter was found inside the vehicle which, Faison said, he suspects was used to type in different names on checks.


"They had a mobile system so they could  type checks in the car," the officer said.


Clines-Rutledge, Faison said, has warrants for her arrests in Albany, Ga., Valdosta, Ga., and Dixie County in Florida.