CPSO investigating 14 cases of theft from mailboxes and check fraud since February
Lake Charles, LA (KPLC) -There’s been a rash of mail thefts from mailboxes outside post offices, and it’s caused thousands of dollars of problems for at least one local business woman.
The Calcasieu Sheriff’s Office says they are working 14 cases of mailbox theft and check fraud since February.
Kathi Vidrine went to the U.S. Post Office, on Kirby Street and sent off 20 envelopes containing checks to pay her bills. She dropped them inside one of the big blue boxes.
Instead of being delivered to their destinations, the mail was opened and the checks got into the wrong hands.
The checks were stolen and altered which caused thousands of dollars worth of problems. Vidrine wants to warn others.
“The reason I’m going on tv is to warn everybody, nobody’s safe from this. It’s happening all over when you write checks. I don’t pay online,” said Vidrine.
The checks were fraudulently altered. For instance on one check written for $1024 the one was changed to a nine so it appeared as $9024 and a bank cashed it. Her daughter Nicole Bellomo says the checks were deposited electronically so the thieves never went inside the bank.
“They deposit the checks through a mobile phone, or ATM. They are covered up when they go to the ATM,” said Bellomo.
Bellomo says it caused tons of problems.
“About a week later we got a cancellation for our workers comp, we got a cancellation for the credit cards and everything because they didn’t receive the check,” she said.
Plus their health insurance nearly lapsed and other bills were also late.
The boxes are currently inaccessible to the public.
The sheriff’s detectives have subpoenaed various bank records and are waiting for those to help solve the cases.
”We had to shut our account and we are directly giving our mail to the mailman where it goes to the building and its locked down instead of in these mail boxes because it seems to be occuring in these blue mail boxes even at the post office,” Bellomo said.
“I don’t think the public is aware what’s happening. It’s epidemic in Jefferson Parish and it’s becoming epidemic in our parish. Because, I’m not the only one this happened to,” Vidrine said. She says she caught it immediately because she checks her bank statements daily.
We’ve learned this is a nationwide problem.
Officials say CPSO financial crimes detectives are working with the U.S. Postal Inspector and no arrests have been made at this time.
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