TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- A thief who has been scamming businesses across Kansas is now using the name of the KBI agent that’s chasing him to continue his crime spree.
The conman is believed to be armed and has been on the run for weeks.
Robert Helms, 45, of Pittsburg, KS, has been targeting stores in different parts of the state since early January, paying for purchases with faulty checks and trying to cash fake pay checks. In the beginning, he was pretending to be a law enforcement officer.
His string of crimes started on January 6, 2013 at an Alco Store in Girard, KS. He also hit other Alco locations in Pratt, Ulysses, Kingman, Louisburg, Garnett, Phillipsburg, Smith Center, Beloit and Sabetha. The company reportedly lost at least $5,000 as Helms went from store to store.
He also went to convenience stores, grocery stores and liquor stores in different cities.
In the beginning, KBI agents say Helms would go into the businesses and buy electronics and gift cards and pay with fake personal checks from nonexistent banks, complete with fictitious account and routing numbers. Even the address of the bank listed on the checks had a false address that was geographically correct to the retailer he was victimizing so as not to raise any red flags.
He also cashed phony payroll checks from the Adams County Sheriff’s Office (which doesn’t exist in Kansas) and the Meade County Sheriff’s Office (which is an actual agency in southwest Kansas).
If any questions were asked about the checks, Helms identified himself as a officer of the law, displaying a badge and a weapon on his hip and acting as a plainclothes officer or detective. His ploy made it easier for him to use the bad checks to get money, investigators said, adding that he is also eroding the trust the public has for members of law enforcement.
He had been driving a dark colored minivan but police have since recovered the car and do not know what he is driving now.
Helms has been using a number of false identities with the help of different driver’s licenses but most recently, he has stolen the identity of Senior Special Agent Steve Bundy with the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, the agent leading the search for Helms.
Helms previously called Bundy to tell him that he knew he was being pursued and that he is staying on the run and will keep committing crimes until he is caught.
Bundy says Helms started selling some of the electronics that he bought with the bad checks at pawn shops so he could get money.
Then, he started targeting Orscheln Farm and Home stores across Kansas, buying thousands of dollars worth of industrial tools and paying for everything with fake checks in Bundy’s name. So far, Helm has bought $6,600 worth of equipment at Orschelns in Great Bend, Hays, Hutchinson, McPherson, Salina, Concordia, Topeka, Lawrence and Junction City. He’s also cashed personal checks at Dillons stores in Bundy’s name.
Bundy told WIBW: “I now have an enhanced compassion for victims having become one myself. It really gives you a different perspective as a law enforcement officer. Identity theft is so prolific in society and we sometimes fail to see how damaging it is until you become one yourself.” He said Helms is using his name out of spite.
Helms is no stranger to the system. He has previous convictions of theft, forgery, kidnapping and making worthless checks in different counties, including Sedgwick, Labette and Ford. He was released from prison last fall and the Kansas Department of Corrections lists him as an absconder. He hasn’t reported to his parole officer since October of 2012, authorities said.
Kansas law enforcement officials are asking the public to keep an eye out for Helms and to be aware of the false identities he’s been using in the hopes that other businesses will not fall prey to his tactics and so that he can be caught.
Anyone with information is asked to call 1-800-KS-CRIME (1-800-572-7463).