THE BRONX – Eight defendants have been sentenced to prison for their participation in a long-running scheme to steal mail from Bronx mailboxes. Between May 2015 and at least January 2017, each of them participated in a scheme to steal mail and deposit stolen checks and money orders using other individuals’ debit cards.
Since 2015, U.S. Postal Inspection Service (“USPIS”) and other local and federal agencies, including the New York City Police Department (“NYPD”), Homeland Security Investigations, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, have been investigating mail theft from mailboxes in the Bronx, New York. The investigation has revealed that individuals steal mail either by illicitly obtaining mail box keys or by “fishing.” Fishing involves inserting homemade mail theft devices into mailboxes located on street corners or other publicly accessible places.
After gaining access to the mail in the mailbox, a thief typically will remove any mail that appears to contain checks or money orders. During the beginning and end of the month, when many people mail checks for rent and bills, a thief can steal checks worth tens of thousands of dollars in a single night.
After perpetrators fish checks and money orders out of mailboxes, they sell the checks and money orders to others, remove the payees’ names by “washing” the checks and money orders or simply deposit the checks and money orders into a bank account. In various iterations of the scheme, those bank accounts have belonged to the mail thieves, to complicit accountholders, or to unsuspecting third parties whose debits cards or personal identifying information have been stolen.
Since late 2015, USPIS and NYPD enforcement operations have resulted in over 50 state arrests of individuals for theft of mail in the Claremont Park area of the Bronx, and over $750,000 in checks and money orders has been traced to these mail theft schemes.