Social Security is in the news tonight as bogus checks which appear to be issued by the SSB are being cashed by unsuspecting merchants. Seven News received copies of the fraudulent checks that were issued in the names of Darnell Garbutt and Michael Gomez, and presented for cashing to at least four business houses in Belize City.

One of the checks was cashed by the owner of the Chinese store, 88 Shopping Center, located on Central American Boulevard. The check dated April 22nd, 2010 was made payable to a Darnell Garbutt in the amount of $537.37 and cashed. Once the check reached the Belize Bank, it was returned to the depositor as unpaid and identified as a fraudulent check. Social Security Board's Chief Executive Officer, Merlene Bailey Martinez says her office has been working with the Bank to uncover the perpetrators.

Via Telephone,
Merlene Bailey Martinez, CEO, Social Security Board

"We have received notice of checks that were previously presented to two other banks in Belize City and they were referred to us to validate these checks and we have confirmed to them that these checks have not been issued by Social Security. They have been fraudulently issued. "

Jim McFadzean
"And how would one go about and determine the validity of a Social Security check?"

Merlene Bailey
"Well you know our checks have various security features that the banks are fully aware of. So my advice rather than give you a point by point validation, my advice to the general public is to refrain or keep away from third party checks, because you are not in the position to validate the checks. The banks are in a better position to do so, they will know if these checks are fraudulently issued. They have the mechanism to check with us and I would advise the public not to cash third party checks because they take a risk in doing so."

Jim McFadzean
"Is there any truth that these forged Social Security checks might be the result of an employee that was dismissed?"

Merlene Bailey
"I have no information of that nature. If that is so that has not been communicated, no investigation has revealed that to us yet. I am not saying that it is not true, but we have no information that links this matter to any employee at Social Security."

Martinez says the checks were cashed by both payees, Garbutt and Gomez, using Social Security cards as identification. Some merchants are known to take the risk of cashing these and other third party checks since they charge a lucrative fee.

Channel 7