The continuing difficult economy in light of the rapidly increasing cost of living has led some individuals to take increasingly desperate action to make ends meet. While some people are able to find their niche in life rather quickly, others may struggle for years or never fully get their feet under them. This can cause individuals to look towards sources of quick cash to pay their bills and to put food on the table.
Unfortunately this desire for quick money can lead individuals to take actions that would otherwise give them reason to think more carefully about the other party’s request. Agreeing to take part in get rich quick or fast cash schemes can result in serious criminal charges.
Mail Fishing Leads to Mail Theft
Back in 2012 when President Obama was visiting New York City, the discovery of a bizarre object inside a mailbox set off a minor panic as authorities initially believed the device to be a pipe bomb. In reality, the device was a tool now-known to be commonly used in a form of mail theft known as fishing. To be clear, this is a different act than the “phishing” that is often carried out online. That type of phishing involves using social engineering to trick people into providing sensitive personal and financial information.
In this case fishing means the physical act of taking a home-made product similar to a fishing pole and making one end sticky with glue or other substances. The individual then drops the sticky end of the “fishing pole” into a U.S. mailbox. The thief will then retrieve letters that stick to the glued-end from the mailbox. The thief then sorts through them for money orders, checks, cash, and other valuable items.
The man was carrying a milk crate and a milk carton coated in glue and attached to a string. Police say they witnessed the man place the milk carton in the U.S. mailbox and then retrieve it by pulling the string. He would pull the letters off of the carton, throw them into the milk crate, and begin his fishing attempts anew.
After witnessing this behavior, police moved in and arrested the man. At the time of his arrest, the man was carrying ten envelopes apparently retrieved from mailboxes. He was charged with grand larceny due to the thefts. Unaware that the defendant was doing anything but engaging in small time theft, he was permitted to plead down to disorderly conduct charges. He pleaded guilty, paid the $250 fine and disappeared off of the radar until this month.
Police Allege a Sophisticated Mail Theft Operation Was Taking Place
Police now allege that the this individual has developed a mail theft scheme that combines the low-tech theft from U.S. mailboxes with the use of high-tech social engineering to exploit others greed or desperation. According to criminal allegations, the fraud works along these lines. First, the individual or an accomplice fishes at mailboxes looking for envelops containing money orders from Western Union and other companies. After taking the money orders from a mailbox, the would allegedly post advertisements under pseudonyms promising that people would “Get Paid Today” along with photographs intended to give the illusion of wealth and class.
When individuals would message him about the advertisements, police allege that the accused individual would then state that he needs access to his or her bank account. Once the individual has given that information he would allegedly alter the money order through a chemical process placing the name of the bank account holder on the altered money order. Police state he would then deposit the money order, withdraw the cash, and disappear without providing the account holder with his or her cut. By the time the party realized that it had not received the promised payment, months had typically passed and the trial had gone cold. Police believe that at least 18 thefts have occurred since the beginning of 2014.
Facing Serious Criminal Charges in New York?
Charges have yet to be filed in this criminal matter against the mastermind or against those who may have knowingly or willfully participated in the scheme. However tampering with the mails and engaging in fraudulent and misleading conduct can lead to serious criminal charges. If you or a loved one is facing charges that could result in imprisonment, contact experienced criminal defense attorneys in New York City. To schedule a free and confidential criminal defense consultation call us at 800-730-0135 or contact us online.