A Las Vegas man was arrested over the weekend on suspicion of forgery after allegedly passing phony checks at several Novato businesses, a Marin County sheriff’s sergeant said today.Herbert Winterstein, 55, was booked into Marin County jail on 24 counts of forgery, five counts of burglary, three counts of possession of stolen property, one count each of grand theft and possession of false identification, and two counts each of petty theft and defrauding an innkeeper, Sgt. Debra Barry said. He is being held on $15,000 bail. Winterstein also is being held on a $10,000 felony fraud warrant from the South Lake Tahoe Police Department and a no-bail warrant for felony theft in Clark County, Nev., Barry said.Winterstein was arrested Saturday afternoon during a traffic stop in the 1400 block of Hamilton Parkway in Novato. Sheriff’s deputies found a laptop, forged checks, sheets of blank checks, cell phones, gift cards, hotel keys and gas cards in his hotel room, Barry said.The investigation began last Wednesday when a Novato resident and a Petaluma resident who works in Novato reported receiving phony checks, Barry said.Investigators learned that in March, Winterstein had approached a man at Gnoss Field in Novato about purchasing a $7.5 million plane, Barry said. He also approached another man at the airport about buying a hangar, she said. Winterstein entered into a contract to purchase the plane. In April, both men noticed fraudulent activity in their bank accounts and contacted the sheriff’s office, Barry said. Investigators also determined that Winterstein had passed phony checks in Novato at the Days Inn, the Courtyard Marriott, Safeway, Sprint, Sears and Pinky’s Pizza, Barry said.The total amount of the forgeries has not been determined and the Marin County District Attorney’s Office is still preparing charges against Winterstein, Barry said this morning.
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