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Woman arrested for scams also accused of stealing more than quarter million dollars

UPDATE: Deputies have now arrested Contreras on suspicion of stealing and identity theft in a case involving more than a quarter million dollars.

Deputies arrested Contreras after a resident contacted the sheriff’s department after noticing more than $250,000 missing from a business checking account.

Deputies said the investigation revealed the thefts began in February.

Columbia police arrested Contreras on unrelated charges.

ORIGINAL STORY:Columbia police arrested Tanya Garay-Contreras on Thursday night on suspicion of passing bad checks.

A victim told police Contreras contacted her and asked if she was willing to help out the less fortunate families in the Columbia area. In return, Contreras offered to pay half of her utility bills for cash.

The victim told police she gave Contreras approximately $500 in a two-month period, believing her utility bills were being taken care of.

Police said the victim received a letter for the City of Columbia Finance Department stating the payment information provided was returned due to insufficient funds.

On Thursday, police investigated a second victim with a similar story.

The victim told police she gave Contreras approximately $500 to give to the less fortunate.

The second victim also received a letter from the City of Columbia stating she had insufficient funds, police said.

When police questioned Contreras, she admitted to using the money she had received for business and narcotics.

Contreras was arrested and faces possible charges of passing bad checks and stealing, police said.

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