Suspects in Pennsylvania mail theft operation 'washed' stolen checks to steal thousands, police say

Authorities in Delaware County arrested a group of men in connection to a southeastern Pennsylvania mail theft ring that included erasing information from stolen checks with antifreeze to and filling in new amounts of money.

Yeadon Police Chief Anthony Paparo told reporters the department's investigation started in February when someone reported their mortgage check was erroneously cashed. Since then, Paparo said, several other reports of check fraud have trickled in from multiple southeastern counties.

The group was recently captured on video breaking into a U.S. mailbox and stealing all the mail from inside, according to investigators. Police believe the group may have stolen keys to U.S. mailboxes from a postal employee.

The group is accused of shifting through the stolen mail for checks and using gasoline antifreeze and a toothbrush to scrub off the information written by the account holder. With the blank checks, the suspects wrote in amounts as large as $7,000, according to Paparo.

Investigators said the group flaunted their wealth on Instagram and used the social media platform to solicit unsuspecting people into a scheme to make quick money. According to Paparo, the suspects would ask for the victim's debit card and pin number and cash one of their phony checks into the victim's account. In exchange, the victim would get a modest share of the thousand dollar deposit.

Police estimated that the mail theft ring, which spanned several southeastern Pennsylvania counties including Philadelphia and Montgomery, netted around $125k.

Officers arrested three suspects Tuesday during a traffic stop after police recognized the license plate number from the mailbox theft, Paparo told reporters. During the arrest, Naod Tsegay was found with 59 stolen checks in one shoe and 19 debit cards in the other, police said. 

Police are still searching for a fourth man that's believed to have participated in the mail theft ring. Prosecutors have not announced charges at this time.



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