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By Sadef Ali Kully

Nearly a dozen suspected members of the Snow gang, were charged last week with a two-month scheme involving stealing checks from USPS mailboxes and then forging the checks to cash them, the Queens district attorney said..

The charges included forgery, criminal possesion of a forged instrument, petit larceny, identity theft, criminal possession of stolen property and tampering with private communications, the DA and federal officials said.

Nine out of the 11 alleged gang members are residents of South Jamaica and the other two are Brooklyn residents, according to court records. The defendants from Queens were identified as Robert Augustine, Anthony Brannon, Henry Brown, Darryl Carrington, Malik Franklin, Yuri Oluh, Tawayna Piper, Alexus Warren and Jamal Woodford.

The two defendants from Brooklyn were identified as Terell Bishop and Devon Depeazer.

“It is alleged that the Snow gang, through their members and associates, have become involved in the practice of ‘fishing,’ ‘washing’ and cashing forged checks in the hopes of yielding greater revenue to finance their alleged criminal activities,” Queens DA Richard Brown said.

Fishing is dropping a sticky weight tied to a string into a box and then pulling the mail out and check washing is when household chemicals are used to erase the ink on a check, which can then be rewritten for any amount.

The DA said that over the past two months alone, it is alleged the defendants involved in the scheme “fished” for mail to look for checks, then “washed” them and had them cashed —over $33,500 in forged checks at various banks throughout the city, according to the DA.

According to charges filed by the Queens DA, defendants would allegedly “fish” for mail inside large USPS mailboxes across Cambria Heights and other near neighborhoods in southeast Queens. Then the checks found in the mailboxes were allegedly “washed” using homemade devices and cashed. Each individual had a role and was paid a fee for his participation in the scheme, police and USPS officials said.

According to court records, police and USPS officials said defendants were observed committing the crimes. In addition, homemade devices to help forge the checks were found in a vehicle belonging to one of the suspects.

The DA said one of the suspects, Malik Franklin from Jamaica, was observed stealing mail from a USPS mailbox around 119th Avenue and 228th Street. Five minutes later, police officials responded to an accident involving Franklin near Springfield Boulevard and discovered numerous mail correspondence and checks inside his vehicle.

“When you steal mail from a blue mail collection box, you’re stealing from your neighbors, business owners and friends. There is no place for this type of unlawful activity in our community. If you steal mail, you go to jail,” U.S. Postal Inspector in Charge Phillip Bartlett said.

Reach Reporter Sadef Ali Kully by e-mail at skully@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4546.

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