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High speed chase helps catch a man wanted on federal counterfeit check crimes

NEW BUFFALO, Mich. -- A high speed chase that crossed the Indiana/Michigan state line helped bring down a man on the run from federal authorities. He’s accused of spending years writing bad checks worth thousands of dollars.

ABC57 obtained the exclusive dashcam video capturing Theodore Phillips last moments as a free man. Police finally closing in after a botched job at a three oaks bank.

Officer Michael Cluster spends his days as the school resource officer for New Buffalo High School, but he's also a patrolman. On the afternoon of August 22 his 30 years of experience was put to the test.

"The New Buffalo City PD was notified by the Three Oaks Village and Township PD that there had been attempt to cash a fraudulent payroll check at a bank in their the community," said Officer Cluster.

Officer Cluster began to head east on US 12 in search of the red pick-up truck seen leaving the back with the woman who tried to cash the check and another man inside. He walked us through the video moment by moment.

"That is the pursuit," said Officer Cluster. "That is the suspect vehicle being found by the Pokagon Tribal Police."

The suspect then decides to get on Interstate 94 heading towards Indiana reaching speeds up to 110 miles per hour.

"It had just rained actually a half an inch," said Officer Cluster. "We had a pretty good downpour so the roads were slick and hazardous specifically for pursuit driving."

"We though that we may have had him boxed in, but at the last minute he goes to the ramp that's leaving the scale but becomes the exit ramp for westbound 94," said Officer Cluster.

He isn't off long before making the call to get right back on the interstate, but soon he gets off again things get more dicey.

"He's actually going to ramp back on to I-94 on the exit ramp going the wrong way," said Officer Cluster. "You can tell by the amount of traffic that this is a bad situation."

With the Berrien County Sheriff, Amtrack Police and Pokagon Tribal Police on his tail and Indiana State Police closing in -- the suspect drives off the interstate onto an overpass -- where he is caught and the final piece of the puzzle is revealed.

"The driver had been wanted by the postal inspector and the FBI for almost 6 years," said Officer Cluster. "He had been on the run. He was consistently moving around. He had a network. He had numerous fake ID's. So he was just good and he we were just a step behind him in most cases."

ABC57 obtained pages of federal court filings from the US District Court Northern Illinois District . Investigators lay out how they think he would steal corporate checks from the mail, make counterfeit checks and then hire runners to cash them.


Phillips is being held in the La Porte County Jail. In addition to federal charges, he's now facing resisting law enforcement and reckless driving charges. No word on when or if he will be extradited to Illinois. 

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