CHICAGO (CBS) – Two people are accused of running a check fraud scheme that attempted to bilk Chicago area Wal-Mart and K-Mart stores out of more than $1.7 million.

Audrey Price and Paul Gaiter were each charged with wire fraud Wednesday in a scheme to cash fraudulent checks at Wal-Mart and K-Mart stores, according to criminal complaints filed in U.S. District Court.

Wal-Mart investigators contacted the FBI on Oct. 13, of last year, about people who had been cashing bogus payroll checks, or trying to do so, at the retailer’s stores for the year prior. Investigators later discovered that K-Mart stores were also affected.

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Wal-Mart and K-Mart stores in the Chicago area will cash a payroll check for a fee – as a currency exchange might do – if the person provides legitimate identification, social security number and the payroll check itself.

Several hundred individuals cashed or attempted to cash fraudulent checks from $650 to $2,000 about 2,500 times, the affidavit said.

An FBI investigation determined Gaiter would recruit people to cash fraudulent checks and would pay them one-third of the check, according to the affidavit. Once the person agreed, Gaiter would call Price and give her the identification of the person so she could make a fraudulent check, the affidavit said.

Gaiter would pick up the fraudulent checks, usually at a McDonald’s in Lisle, and either he or a runner would take the person to a Wal-Mart store to cash the checks. Gaiter would give the person one-third of the cash and he and Price would split the rest, the affidavit said.

The FBI used informants to gather information about Gaiter, and arrested him June 14, 2011, the affidavit said. He then provided information about Price to the FBI, including allowing federal agents to record conversations between them.

The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.

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