Serial fraudster with chameleon qualities and a sense of humor, who cashed over $ 125,000 in fake credit union checks, was able to escape capture by Utah Police investigators for eight months.
“I have been in law enforcement for 25 years and have seen some really good criminals over the years. I would say this one is one of the smartest suspects and does a really good job not getting caught so far, ”said Detective Darren Paul, Department of Fraud Investigator. Greater Salt Lake City unified police force.
Nevertheless, the det. Paul is convinced he will catch the suspect, William Branstiter, because no matter how smart criminals are, they all make mistakes. Police issued bulletins on the suspect to all state financial institutions and a local judge ordered an arrest warrant without bail for Branstiter’s arrest.
“At this point, every credit union and every Wasatch Front police officer in north-central Utah knows who he is,” he said. “We just can’t get our hands on him.”
As of October 30, 2020, Branstiter, 45, of Salt Lake City, has stolen $ 125,000 using more than 50 counterfeit checks from credit unions across Utah. Sandy-based $ 12.9 billion federal Mountain America credit union suffered the largest financial losses, police say. Branstiter also hit the $ 15.6 billion America First credit union based in Riverdale, the $ 1.4 billion Cypriot federal credit union based in western Jordan and the federal credit union Deseret First. $ 913 million based in West Valley City. He also victimized the Salt Lake City-based Zions Bank.
Retail Paul said Branstiter was able to stay one step ahead of the police because he uses a new ID every two or three days. Police believe the suspect is purchasing personal identifying information, including date of birth, social security and bank account numbers, from the dark web.
“He always dresses”, det. said Paul. “He usually wears a nice button down shirt, and more recently he wore a white shirt and tie. Sometimes he will wear glasses. He looks like any other Joe Schmoe, which is why I think he’s so successful.
Branstiter typically uses the credit union’s drive-thru to cash his fake checks and playfully uses a COVID mask to cover his tracks.
“The use of drive-thru is kind of his signature, because he likes to put a COVID mask on the backplate of the car,” said Det. said Paul. “And that’s another thing, he changes his car every three or four days. Some of these are rentals and others are from (unsuspecting) family members.
There is also no set pattern as to when and where he prefers to commit his crimes. Sometimes Branstiter will hit credit unions in a county north of Salt Lake and on the same day he will go to a county south of Salt Lake.
“He’s gone as far south as St. George, Utah, which is near Vegas, and he’s been as far north as Logan, which is two hours north of Salt Lake,” he says. “So he’s running around the state pretty much along the I-15 corridor. He also changes hotels every two or three days, which makes him harder to find.
According to police, this is not Branstiter’s first rodeo.
In 2005, he was sentenced to more than eight years in federal prison after being convicted of several counts of bank fraud and aggravated identity theft. He was also ordered to return more than $ 14,000, according to documents filed by the Utah Federal Court. And in 2011, he was sentenced to more than five years in federal prison on multiple charges of bank fraud and aggravated identity theft. No restitution has been ordered in this case.