Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The True Story of Ray and Faye Copeland

The Unsophisticated Swindler

Ray had a keen eye for cattle and he knew a good deal when he saw one.   His only problem was he never had any money.  As the old saying goes, It takes money to make money, so by the early 1970s Ray began working out the details of his new plan.  He knew he could not continue writing bad checks.  He never got away with it in the past and the last thing he wanted was to be sent back to jail.  His arrest record was long enough and another arrest could send him away for a substantial period of time.  No, he knew he could not risk doing that himself, but then he wondered if he could convince someone else to do it for him.  Someone no one knew and someone who could disappear without rousing any suspicion.  The plan needed some work, but he was certain he had stumbled onto something feasible.

Once Ray worked out all of the details, he began showing up at cattle auctions with hitchhikers and drifters.   The two men would sit on opposite sides of each other during the sales and Ray would signal whenever he wanted a particular group of livestock.  When it came time to complete the purchase, Ray would have the man write out a check from Rays book and sign his name to it.  The check would eventually bounce, but by then Ray would have already sold the cattle.  When law enforcement confronted him about the checks, Ray would pretend to have no knowledge of the sales and would proclaim his innocence by pointing out the signatures on the checks were not in his handwriting.  Hence, no charges could be filed against him.  The scam was not very sophisticated, but surprisingly he was able to pull it off dozens of times.  Ray used several different drifters and all of them would disappear after the sales. 

Ray Copeland in custody
Ray Copeland in custody
 

Ray felt he had formulated the perfect plan, but he did not count on the determination of local law enforcement to prove his involvement in the cattle scams.  Investigators eventually caught up with one of the drifters.  The man, Gerald Perkins, was cooperative with detectives and he provided them with a detailed account of Rays schemes.  Ray was quickly arrested and ended up serving almost two years in jail for check forgery.  After his release from prison, Ray managed to stay out of trouble for several years.  He still felt his plan was successful, if in need of some minor adjustments.
By the mid 1980s, Ray had fine-tuned his last scheme and was eagerly putting it into operation.  He would still use drifters, the only difference being he would not have them write checks from his account.  Instead, he would have them get a post office box and open an account in their own name and have them write checks from their own account at various livestock auctions.  Ray would explain this to them by saying the auctioneers disliked him and would not give him a fair shake.  Once the drifter wore out his welcome, Ray would see to it that he disappeared for good.

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