U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara announced that eight young men were indicted for mail theft and bank fraud conspiracies in the Bronx. In a nutshell, the group is accused of removing mail from corner mailboxes in order to find checks and mail orders. Bharara said they "allegedly hatched a scheme to steal mail from Bronx residents, specifically targeting mail they thought would contain checks or money orders, then depositing stolen funds into their own and others’ accounts. Now, thanks to the work of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service [USPIS], these alleged mail fraudsters have been delivered to the criminal justice system." Very clever, Preet.
Because of a series of mail theft incidents, the U.S. Postal Service has been installing "retrofitted" mailboxes to prevent mail "fishing" in the Bronx and upper Manhattan.
The U.S. Attorney's office explained the enterprise, which took place between March 2015 and January 2017:
Since 2015, 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 by either 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 has been stolen.
U.S.P.I.S. Inspector-in-Charge Philip Bartlett added, "When I think of the brazenness of these individuals to allegedly steal U.S. Mail coupled with their total disregard for the financial well-being of the communities impacted by their crimes, it takes the word insolent to new heights."
Brian Marte, a/k/a “Trini Rabiia,” 20; Erickson Batista, a/k/a “Niike Batista,” 24; Junior Taveras, a/k/a “Tuh Relambio,” 19; Angel Aristy, a/k/a “Frekiitho Lindo Colon,” 18; Luis Rosado, a/k/a “El Menolsito Tejada,” 19; Eoscaterys Polnaco, 23; Brayan Rodriguez, a/k/a “New Black El Paisano,” 23; and Ronardo Baez, a/k/a “Tuchokoo Baez,” 19, were named in the indictment. Five have been arrested, two are at large and one will turn himself in at the end of the week.
The feds say, "Each of the defendants is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison; one count of conspiracy to commit mail theft, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison; and one count of aggravated identity theft, which carries a mandatory consecutive sentence of two years in prison. Marte is also charged with one count of mail theft, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison."
As for the new mailboxes to prevent fraud, a U.S.P.I.S. spokeswoman told DNAinfo they are similar to the old ones but "the retrofitted postal boxes 'don't have a snorkel to pull down."