(WBEN) Reservist Steven Burns looked like your average soldier in battle fatigues.
To many area bank tellers he appeared as a desperate soldier about to be deployed and in need of their help in cashing a $300 check.
Tonawada police say Burns, 21, of Sanborn was not only AWOL from his reservist unit, but used the tale of being shipped out over and over again -- as many as 30 different times - as a way to pass as much as $10,000 in bad checks at banks across Erie & Niagara Counties.
"What he was doing was dressing in his military uniform, going into banks where he knew he didn't have an account and convincing them to cash his checks.. because he was being deployed in a few days," said Lt. Nicholas Bado of the Tonawanda Police Dept.
The clerks, sympathetic toward the serviceman’s plight, accommodated Burns and gave him cash before realizing the checks would not clear.
"Our detectives contacted his reserve unit and he was AWOL from that unit, not showing up for training or assignments, so any kind of story about being deployed was no longer valid.... He was continuing to use that as as a story," Bado says.
Burns was arraigned in Tonawanda Town Court on petit larceny and bad check charges. Bail was set at $5,00 and he was taken to the Erie County Holding Center.
The U.S. Secret Service is also investigating.