Suspects allegedly stole money from hundreds of victims across California
PASADENA – California Attorney General Rob Bonta today announced the arrests of 56 individuals involved in a scheme resulting in the theft of nearly $5 million from hundreds of people in a widespread mail theft and postal fraud operation. The suspects — who operated out of multiple counties across California, including Los Angeles County and San Bernardino County — allegedly altered stolen checks, deposited them into bank accounts, then quickly withdrew money from ATMs before the banks discovered the checks were forged. The California Department of Justice (DOJ) charged the suspects with felony grand theft, money laundering, and conspiracy.
“Let this be a strong warning to anyone seeking to steal people’s hard-earned money: We will find you, and we will hold you accountable,” said Attorney Rob General Bonta. “I am thankful to our local and federal law enforcement partners for their work in this investigation. As California’s chief law enforcement officer, I will not tolerate theft and fraud being perpetrated against California families. The California Department of Justice will continue to work to bring those responsible for these alleged actions to account.”
“Today is a victory, not only for the multitude of law enforcement agencies who dismantled this organization, but for the citizens in California,” said Carroll Harris, Inspector in Charge of the Los Angeles Division of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. “The U.S. Postal Inspection Service is committed to protecting our customers and preserving the integrity of the mail. Let this case be an example that this kind of criminal conduct, especially when it involves the U.S. mail, will not be ignored, or go unpunished. This effort would not have been successful without the mission-oriented cooperation between our federal, state, and local law enforcement counterparts.”
“This operation is a prime example of what can be accomplished when local, state, and federal agencies work together to keep communities safe,” said Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva. “If not for the investigative work of the U.S. Postal Inspector’s Office and the diligence seen during my and other law enforcement agencies’ warrant arrests, these crimes would still be occurring today, and countless people would continue to be victimized. We all look forward to working with the State Attorney General’s Office to ensure those responsible are held accountable.”
The arrests are the culmination of a years-long investigation the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. The suspects allegedly began the postal fraud and check washing operation in 2018 and used hundreds of accounts at major banking institutions to carry out their crimes. The suspects are charged with victimizing more than 750 Californians. Investigators believe the stolen money was used to fund other criminal operations.
On October 6 and 7, 2022, 34 teams from local, state and federal agencies carried out a wide-ranging law enforcement sweep across the counties of Los Angeles and San Bernardino. Operation “Checks in the Mail” comprised 16 teams from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and eight teams from the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, in addition to teams from the Los Angeles Police Department, Bakersfield Police Department, Hermosa Beach Police Department, Homeland Security Investigations, U.S. Marshals, California State Parole Agents, Los Angeles County Probation, Long Beach Police Department, and the Los Angeles Department of Children and Family Services.
The suspects are facing charges of Aggravated White Collar Crime in Excess of $500,000, Aggravated White Collar Crime in Excess of $100,000, Conspiracy to Commit Grand Theft by False Pretenses, Forgery Relating to an Item Exceeding $950, Money Laundering, and Grand Theft by False Pretense.
DOJ’s eCrime Unit has filed charges in the Los Angeles County Superior Court. The unit investigates and prosecutes large-scale, multi-jurisdictional criminal organizations, networks, and groups that perpetrate identity theft crimes, use an electronic device or network to facilitate a crime, or commit a crime targeting an electronic device, network, or intellectual property.
It is important to note that a criminal indictment contains charges that must be proven in a court of law. Every defendant is presumed innocent unless or until proven guilty.