A group of individuals believed to originate from the Bronx are fishing out checks from USPS mailboxes in Western Queens and changing the information around for themselves. And it’s not just a Queens issue, with all boroughs in potential risk.
It’s a simple enough plan, find USPS mailboxes (the blue postal boxes) then fish out the mail. The criminals then sift through until they find a check for a bill. After opening it they use acetone to wash out the ink. They then fill the check with a name of another valid bank account. On occasion, the amount is changed too, however to avoid suspicion the amount is often left the same.
And so you have a check for Verizon for $1,000 one day, and the same check with not only more money on it but also another name.
For those in Astoria who pay their bills via checks in USPS mailboxes, the 14th Precinct warns caution. Captain Peter Fortune of the 114th stated that,
The investigation is a collaborative one, with the Bronx police working with the 114th. There have already been new mailboxes with much thinner slots installed. This is something that Captain Fortune hopes will happen in Astoria also.
There are however problems with the investigation. Captain Fortune stresses that although there are a number of people involved in the investigation, the pattern of the crimes are difficult to stop. This is because the NYPD are still unsure how the individuals with legitimate bank accounts come into the schemes.
“We’re trying to figure out how they’re connected to this crew…..But here’s the problem. Their defense is, ‘Well, I didn’t know it was a stolen check. This is me, this is my bank account” Captain Fortune said, according to QNS.
The suspects that then use the checks simply deposit the amount in their bank accounts. They then take out the cash before the clearing process.
This is made even more difficult by the defense of the suspects arrested who simple say ‘well, I didn’t know it was a stolen check. This is me, this is my bank account’ according to Fortune.
One of the ways police are looking to combat the recent outbreak of check thefts are pigmented gel-based pens. The pens will not wash out with acetone. With such insecurities in the way of mailing checks, Astorians and New Yorkers are advised to keep their checks safe, and where possible, pay in other ways.