Gang members fished mailboxes for checks in fraud scheme: DA

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Police hooked and sunk a check fraud ring involving 11 alleged members of a street gang who allegedly stole checks from local mailboxes in south Queens, then altered and cashed them in, prosecutors announced on Wednesday.

According to Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown, the members of the “SNOW” gang “fished” out checks left in local mailboxes and erased the original payee’s name and currency amounts in order to forge them for their own profit. Over the last two months, it is alleged, the gang reaped more than $33,500 from cashing the forged checks at various banks across the city.

In the course of the scheme, Brown noted, the participants dumped any mail that did not contain checks.

“As alleged, these SNOW gang members systematically defrauded victims out of thousands of dollars,” Police Commissioner William Bratton said in a statement. “Let these arrests send a message to gangs who want to operate in our city: the NYPD, along with its law enforcement partners, will work relentlessly to hold you responsible for all of your criminal acts.”

“Mail theft is a very personal crime,” added U.S. Postal Inspector-in-Charge Philip R. Bartlett. “When you steal mail from a blue collection box, you’re stealing from your neighbors, business owners and friends. There is no place for this type of unlawful activity.”

Part of the ring was uncovered on the morning of Dec. 9, 2015, when police responded to a 911 call about an individual stealing mail from a blue collection box in Cambria Heights. Upon arriving at the corner of 119th Avenue and 228th Street, prosecutors said, the officers spotted a man later identified as Malik Franklin, 22, of Jamaica — who matched the description of the mail thief — driving a silver/gray 2005 Honda Civic at a high speed.

Reportedly, the officers pursued the car, but lost sight of it as it turned and went through a red light. Police spotted the same vehicle moments later after it crashed at the corner of 121st Avenue and Springfield Boulevard; authorities said Franklin was in the front seat, and numerous pieces of mail and checks were found in the car.

Another piece of the case came together on Jan. 11, when police officers spotted a car blocking a driveway at the corner of 134th Avenue and 154th Street in Rochdale. Upon approaching the car, they observed three others charged in the ring — Brooklyn resident Terrell Bishop, 33; and Jamaica’s Darryl Carrington, 26, Alexus Warren, 19 — inside the car along with two devices known to remove mail from mailboxes. Officers also found various stolen checks, including ones that were either completely or partially forged.

Others charged in the scheme were Jamaica residents Robert J. Augustine, 21; Anthony Brannon, 23; Henry Brown, 30; Yuri Oluh, 16; Tawayna M. Piper, 32; Jamal Woodford, 31; and Brooklyn resident Devon Depeazer, 22.

All suspects were variously charged with counts of forgery, criminal possession of a forged instrument, criminal possession of stolen property, identity theft, petit larceny and tampering with private communications. They each face up to seven years behind bars if convicted.