Mail Theft Monday – 3/8/10

There are so many mail identity theft stories from the past week, so I’ll get right to it:

Gadsden man convicted of mail fraud, sentenced to two years in prison
WCSC – 3/8/10

(GADSDEN, SOUTH CAROLINA) “A Gadsden man was convicted of mail fraud and sentenced to two years in prison and to pay restitution for the deed, the US Attorney’s office said Monday. Otis J. Goodwin, Jr., 32, pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud.

According to the indictment, between June 2006 and November 2007, Goodwin and his co-defendant Wendy Constance Evans, 45, opened checking accounts at a credit union usen stolen personal information. The duo allegedly opened the accounts to receive and pass checks in the community. Evans pleaded guilty to mail fraud in December, 2008 and sentenced in October of last year.”

COMMENTS: It is refreshing to see a mail identity thief be sentenced to a substantial amount of prison time. I just hope this “2 year sentence” doesn’t turn into 4 months time served with probation, in which case he’ll be back on the street victimizing hard working Americans via mail identity theft in no time.

It’s in the mail
Star-Telegram – 3/6/10

(HALTOM CITY, TEXAS) “Postal Service officials have refused to share information with the public about a rash of outdoor mailbox break-ins, but they’re apparently advising members of Congress. Last month, District Manager Garry Gilmore wrote a letter to U.S. Rep. Kay Granger, R-Fort Worth, that was passed on to me.

Postal records indicate, he writes, that the mailbox outside the Haltom City station was broken into in early January. (Originally, the station manager denied to The Watchdog that there was a break-in.)

“Mail theft from collection boxes is a relatively recent development in the Metroplex,” the letter says. The letter urges customers to mail letters inside a post office if the last collection time for the outdoor box has already passed.

I’m trying to get a list for readers of all mailbox thefts outside post offices. I filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the postal inspection service in Washington, D.C.”

COMMENTS: It’s no secret that “cluster boxes” and most locking mailboxes do not provide adequate mail security, but it’s sad when even the government provided collection boxes aren’t truly secure. Maybe the USPS should consider upping the level of security on their collection boxes (as well as the cluster boxes they provide to some HOAs, etc.) if they have any aspirations of staying in business in the years to come.

Protect yourself from identity theft
WLBT– 3/4/10

(JACKSON, MISSISSIPPI) “Identity theft comes with a hefty price tag. Last year it cost Americans $54 billion. Although safe guarding your information is easy many of us neglect to do it.

“You think, ‘Oh that would never really protect me,’ but in reality those are the most effective tools to protect against identity theft,” said Director of the Consumer Protection Division of the Mississippi Attorney General’s office Meredith Aldridge. She suggested starting with the mail.

Your mailbox is a gold mine for thieves looking for your personal information. How do you know what needs to be shredded or just trashed? Any paper containing personal information like your social security number, account numbers, even receipts need to be shredded. What about those pre-approved credit card solicitations? They may not state any of your personal information, still they are useful for identity thieves.

“If someone else has been going through your mail they may be able to obtain that, complete an application and eventually change the address where you would not realize someone had applied for credit in your name,” said Aldridge.

Aldridge said cut up old credit cards in as many pieces as you can. Then place the pieces in separate garbage bags to be taken out on different trash days. “Sounds like a lot of work. But I tell you, you will be glad that you did that when someone is not able to put those credit cards back together,” said Aldridge. […]”

COMMENTS: I TOTALLY don’t get this article. It looks like it’s going to make the most important point… and then it doesn’t: “Your mailbox is a gold mine for thieves looking for your personal information. How do you know what needs to be shredded or just trashed?”

AND THEN:””If someone else has been going through your mail they may be able to obtain that, complete an application and eventually change the address where you would not realize someone had applied for credit in your name,” […]. Aldridge said cut up old credit cards in as many pieces as you can. Then place the pieces in separate garbage bags to be taken out on different trash days.”

SERIOUSLY? How do you know what to shred? Take trash out on different days? WOW.

Tell me this: How do you know that your mail isn’t stolen BEFORE you even have a chance to shred and discard it? Why even bother if you don’t protect your mail at the source: the mailbox.

People need to use a high security locking mailbox. Otherwise, why even bother shredding your mail, because I guarantee a thief is more likely to grab it from your mailbox than from the dump. Much cleaner.

Common sense people, common sense.

Over 100 Indicted in Complex Louisville Fraud Ring

WFPL – 3/4/10

(LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY) “A two-year investigation by Louisville Metro Police and the Louisville division of the Secret Service is wrapping up with more than 100 indictments. Secret Service Special Agent in Charge Paul Johnson says a few more indictments could be filed in the next few days.

He says a few leaders in the crime ring were running a complex counterfeit check scheme that also included identity theft, check kiting, and opening fraudulent bank accounts. He says nearly half-a-million dollars was stolen from Louisville banks, businesses and individuals.

“Almost every Louisville Metro bank was victimized,” says Johnson. “There were over 52 individuals who were either victims of identity theft, mail theft, or having their information stolen from their automobiles. There were over 62 businesses and not-for-profit businesses as well.” […]”

COMMENTS: Identity theft is the fastest growing crime in the country, and the majority of identity theft is perpetuated the old-fashioned way (stolen wallets, mail and trash). People are very vigilant about shredding their sensitive documents, but often do not think about where these documents are coming from: their curbside mailbox.

Sadly, a locking mailbox is a necessity in today’s world. As long as people continue to receive bank statements, utility bills, credit card offers, social security checks and more in their mailbox, they need to secure their mail (and protect their identity) with a high security locking mailbox like the Mail Boss. Without a security mailbox, the venerable paper shredder is futile.

Lexington woman charged with identity theft, fraud, mail theft
WMBF – 3/3/10

(COLUMBIA, SOUTH CAROLINA) “A Lexington woman is facing several charges after stealing a driver’s license and using it to pass off stolen checks. According to United States Attorney Kevin F. McDonald, 49-year-old Linda Hamel Bacon was charged in a federal indictment with bank fraud, mail theft, and aggravated identity theft.

Bacon allegedly stole a driver’s license […], and then presented the stolen license to pass checks that she had stolen from other individuals’ mailboxes. These incidents occurred in November and December of 2009. Investigators say she obtained more than $6,000 using the stolen checks and false identification. […]”

COMMENTS: Check fraud via the mail is quite common. Consumers should use a special ball point pen that hinders check washing, and of course use a high security locking mailbox to secure incoming mail.

Sandy police bust multi-state burglary ring
Sandy Post – 3/3/10

(SANDY, OREGON) “[…] Sandy Officer Jason Bickle was [on] a case that would eventually consume two months of Bickle’s time; involve officers in several counties and two states; and eventually crush a constantly moving burglary ring. Besides Sandy, an initial inventory of the pilfered items proved they were from such Oregon communities as Gresham, Beaverton, Portland and Roseburg; and in Washington state from Vancouver, Camas, Clark County and Lewis County.

Even though all of the cases were cold and unsolved in the other jurisdictions, Bickle pursued the Sandy burglary and in the process solved all of the other cases in one fell swoop. […] “We ended up recovering a whole bunch of stolen property,” Bickle said. “We probably assisted in solving a dozen felonies from eight or nine jurisdictions.”

A Sandy man lost about $35,000 in jewelry, electronics and under-the-tree Christmas gifts Dec. 24, 2009, including gift cards supposedly mailed to another state. That mail, however, was taken illegally first by the female resident in Sandy and stolen by the people in this burglary ring.

Not only did Bickle have to deal with evidence that was turning up in Washington state and other parts of Oregon, but he also was receiving false information from at least one who claimed to be a victim. One of the stolen gift cards turned out to be the key in identifying the ringleader in the series of burglaries. When the gift card was used at its intended business, the person using the gift card had to use a credit card to pay the amount over the gift card’s value. The credit card just happened to be one of the cards stolen from the Sandy residence. That fact tied the stolen mail to the burglary,” Bickle said.

Another break in the case came when a meth addict in the Multnomah County Jail told Bickle about someone who had been bragging about the Sandy burglary. With that information, Bickle asked a Clark County officer to obtain a search warrant for a home in Vancouver — the home of the alleged ringleader.

That Feb. 3 search, conducted by a half-dozen Sandy officers and others from Portland and Clark County, produced a treasure trove. “(At the Vancouver home) we didn’t find all of the (Sandy) stolen property,” Bickle said, “but we did find enough stolen property to tie (the suspect) to felonies in many different jurisdictions. We tied her to car prowls, identity theft, stolen license plates and we even found meth in the house.”

Officers staking out the home also discovered she had stolen a vehicle and a moving trailer containing everything a Portland family owned because they had just moved from Nevada but hadn’t unloaded the trailer. Bickle said it seemed like every time this woman went anywhere she stole something. […]

Later discovered was the fact she was not in the venture alone. In fact, suspected in the middle of the burglary ring was the ex-husband of the woman living with the owner of the burglarized Sandy home. But police received absolutely no cooperation from the man. He denied everything, even those things that were undeniable.

Bickle reported the man denied using meth, or knowing his friends, or being part of the burglary, or meeting his ex-wife and giving her one of the gift cards for their son, or being involved in any criminal activity — even though police say they have evidence from the Sandy home with the man’s DNA and a number of witnesses identifying him.

[…] There were a number of witnesses and informants, and the common thread is they all use or sell meth, financing their expenses by stealing and selling merchandise on an online sales Web site. […]

“We know who our suspects are,” he said, “and we’re just going to let this case go to grand jury. If there are warrants, we’ll arrest them. But the problem is so many jurisdictions are all going to want her (the Vancouver woman).”

The case has been turned over to the district attorneys in a number of counties as well as federal agents (mail theft). Bickle believes the woman will be indicted by a Washington grand jury and stand trial there before answering to any of the Oregon crimes.

COMMENTS: This story lends further evidence to the little-known truth that methamphetamine addicts often work in teams to support their habit. Most commonly, they steal mail and other information for identity theft. Less commonly, they burglarize homes and cares. They work in highly sophisticated teams to victimize hard-working citizens. They are difficult to catch, so hats off to the Sandy police department for getting these crooks off the street (hopefully for a long while!).

Lee deputies seek woman suspected of cashing stolen check
News-Press – 3/2/10

(FORT MYERS, FLORIDA) “Crime Stoppers is asking for the public’s help identifying a woman who deputies say cashed a stolen paycheck, then walked away with nearly $300 in cash. According to deputies, the victim was expecting a paycheck from her employer in them mail, which was sent on January 29. More than a week later, the employee still hadn’t received her check, so she inquired with her employer if it was indeed mailed. The employer confirmed that not only had the check been sent, but that it had also been cashed.

Further investigation showed that an unknown female suspect went to a south Fort Myers grocery store on February 2, produced some kind of identification, and successfully cashed the stolen check. The victim said she was still in possession of her drivers license, and had no idea how someone could have produced identification in order to cash the check.

Surveillance cameras captured the woman leaving the customer service desk, and detectives are hopeful someone will be able to identify her. […] Anyone with information on the identity, and the current whereabouts, of this woman is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-780-TIPS (8477). All callers will remain anonymous and will be eligible for up to $1,000 in cash rewards. Tips may also be made online at”

COMMENTS: It is not surprising that this woman was able to (presumably wash and) cash this stolen check. Mail thieves often work in teams, with some individuals stealing the mail and others compiling information or creating false IDs if necessary used to wash and forge checks. The victim could have prevented this from happening with a high security locking mailbox to secure incoming mail and protect her identity.

Roseville man pleads guilty to mail theft
The Union – 3/2/10

(ROSEVILLE, CALIFORNIA) “A Roseville man suspected of stealing mail in Nevada County pleaded guilty in federal court Monday morning. Keith Allen Skipper, 35, pleaded guilty to theft of U.S. mail and possession of stolen mail. […] This case is the product of an investigation by the [USPIS], the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office and the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Department.

On Dec. 9, 2009, Nevada County Sheriff’s deputies found Skipper with a large amount of mail addressed to approximately 51 addresses. Among the mail were items that had been reported stolen from a neighborhood collection box. He was charged in Nevada County Superior Court and released on bail.

While out on bail, Skipper stole more mail from residential mail boxes in El Dorado County between Dec. 20 and Dec. 22 to get Christmas cash and gift cards that had been mailed. El Dorado County Sheriff’s deputies stopped him Dec. 22 for a broken brake light. During a search of the vehicle, they found a large amount of stolen mail in the front seat and took him into custody.”

COMMENTS: It is typical that mail thieves like Skipper (as well as criminals in general, one could argue) are repeat offenders. Being arrested or even convicted does not deter them from a life of crime. With mail theft, it is particularly difficult to keep these people off the streets, as the punishments often include little more than a slap on the wrist. That is one of the reasons these indivuals turn to mail theft (inevitably to support their drug habits) – because the punishment if/when caught is so minimal in comparison with other crimes such as, say, armed robbery.

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