ST. GEORGE — A Nevada man charged with a string of crimes involving counterfeit checks is back in jail after he reportedly failed to return to jail at the end of a furlough. Not long after, a warrant was issued for his arrest.

2023 file photo for illustrative purposes only shows St. George Police officers responding to a scene in St. George, Utah, Sept. 24, 2023 | Photo by Alysha Lundgren, St. George News

Joe Charles Aguilera, 53, of Las Vegas, Nevada was arrested Tuesday on two felony warrants issued out of 5th District Court in St. George on Nov. 13, 2023, according to court documents.

The warrants were issued in a case following an incident reported last year, when officers were dispatched to a bank on a report alleging that three suspects attempted to cash what employees suspected were fraudulent checks.

Investigators arrived to learn that Aguilera, who was identified by his Nevada driver license, was third to enter the branch and approached one of the tellers with a check. The employee became suspicious when the check appeared to be fraudulent.

While showing a supervisor, a second teller approached with similar concerns about a check presented by one of the other suspects that appeared to be forged, according to charging documents filed at the time of the arrest.

While bank employees were busy dealing with the first two customers, the third suspect, identified as Kai Elijah Ramos, 38, of Mt. Juliet, Tennessee, cashed a check for $2,013 that later turned out to be forged and left the bank.

Meanwhile, Aguilera and the second suspect appeared nervous, employees told officers. One of the suspects “pretended that he was getting a call,” the officer noted, followed by Aguilera. Both said they needed to get back to work and asked for their checks and IDs back. The pair quickly left the bank on foot and headed south on River Road.

The tellers took a copy of both checks and the suspects’ driver’s license which were later turned over to police. All three checks totaled more than $5,600, but the losses were confined to the $2,000 draft that was cashed.

Stock image | Photo by Oscar Gutierrez-Zozulia/iStock/Getty Images Plus, ST. George News

The suspects were not located during an initial canvass of the area, but Aguilera and a second suspect, Ramos, were arrested at a gas station later that night. While searching Aguilera, officers recovered the check that was rejected by the bank, along with a second check for $2,500.

When asked, the suspect told investigators “a random individual in Las Vegas approached him and offered him money to cash the checks.” 

The account was called into question when officers realized that both checks were written using the suspect’s full name, along with the name of an employer in St. George.

A background check indicated that Aguilera was listed as a registered sex offender and noncompliant for failing to check in.

The suspect was booked into jail facing multiple felony forgery and communication fraud charges that were filed in two separate cases, as well as the felony charge for failing to register and held without bail. 

2020 file photo shows Purgatory Correctional Facility, Hurricane, Utah, Oct. 21, 2020 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

In October, the court granted Aguilera a month-long furlough on both cases. The warrants were issued when he failed to return to the jail as required in November.

Aguilera’s codefendant, Ramos, was sentenced to serve 150 days in jail in Washington County with credit for time served and he was placed on probation during a hearing held Nov. 16, 2023.

Following the recent arrest, Aguilera remains in jail on a no-bail hold until a review hearing is scheduled in the two cases. No details were made available on the third suspect.

This report is based on statements from court records, police or other responders and may not contain the full scope of findings. Persons arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact.

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