An investigation dating back to mid-November by the Nelson County Sheriff’s Office has helped expose an auction fraud and counterfeiting ring by a New Haven man, Zachary McDonald.
“This was a pretty interesting case,” NCSO Det. Brandon Teater said Tuesday. “I just indicted these individuals in January.”
McDonald, 32, is already in custody in Bourbon County, while his accomplice, Katheryn Silliman, was arrested in November and is in Nelson County Jail. Two others associated with the investigation, John Quinn and Kaitlyn Hicks, of Lancaster, have warrants out for their arrest. They are facing multiple charges, including fraud, theft, tampering with physical evidence, and others.
On Nov. 16, Teater was contacted by Steven Bunch of Bunch Brothers Auction and Realty, where Bunch informed the detective of an Oct. 29 auction they conducted in New Hope where items were sold both in-person and over the internet using online auction services.
Bunch told Teater an online bidder using the auction site equipmentfacts.com produced a check in the amount of $33,781.75 to pay for several items, including chainsaws, a welder, air greaser and two pickup trucks.
The individual identified as the bidder was Lakin Fields of Fields Construction, but it was actually McDonald, who, the investigation found, was using numerous fake names and Gmail accounts to bid on auction items around the state and country. The check used to pay for the auction items was non-negotiable, and Bunch contacted NCSO after spotting some of the items for sale on Facebook Marketplace. The account used on Facebook Marketplace is associated with a Cee Cee McDonald and was set up by Silliman and Zachary McDonald and made to look as though it was for McDonald’s mother, Celia. Teater said no charges are filed against Celia McDonald.
Further investigation revealed that Zachary McDonald was already in custody in Bourbon County for using fraudulent identification and fraudulent checks to purchase items from an auction in Paris. After comparing notes, Teater said Detective Thompson of the Bourbon County Sheriff’s Office found similar styles of checks as in the Bunch auction. Later that day on Nov. 16, Teater and Capt. Michael Watt went to the McDonald residence on Jim Clark Road in New Haven, where a search warrant of a horse barn on the property revealed some of the chainsaws missing from the Bunch auction, as well as items used to print fraudulent checks and counterfeit money such as a computer, printer and clothing iron. Teater also took Silliman in for questioning, and she revealed that Quinn and Hicks — who also has prior charges in Nelson County — had taken the trucks from the McDonald farm to Garrard County.
Search warrants were also issued for phones and other devices associated with McDonald and Silliman, and those searches revealed photos of items fraudulently obtained in other auctions, as well as photos of counterfeit money. In addition, Teater found photos of credit cards, Social Security cards and other personal identifying information, which are believed to be used for identity theft.
“In these types of cases, it’s something that we don’t frequently see,” Teater said. “But at the same time it’s good to see investigative work coming together and seeing a result where we can charge individuals appropriately.”
Teater’s investigation of the devices also discovered invoices from auctions in Mount Sterling, as well as auctions in Oklahoma and Pennsylvania, where McDonald was using the Lakin Fields alias. In addition, it was revealed in a text thread that McDonald also transacted to purchase a truck for $75,000 using a fraudulent check, which was returned, and he then planned to pay the amount in counterfeit cash.
“He had lots of documents that made him appear to be legit,” Teater said.
Teater said after consulting with Dep. Jason Allison, who covers the New Haven area, Allison informed him of a recent case at the same address on Jim Clark Road where a man sold tattooing equipment and received counterfeit cash as payment.
“Hopefully this will protect somebody in the future,” Teater said. “Be aware of scams and bad actors.”
NCSO was assisted in the investigation by the Bourbon County Sheriff’s Office, Lancaster Police, Kentucky State Police and the Greater Hardin County Narcotics Task Force.