A reader sent this in:
Some, perhaps many of you, have had mail stolen from the Coconut Grove Post Office.
Here's what happened to me and what I found out in my pursuit of the culprits. On December 26, at the OUTSIDE drive-thru mail box, I deposited a business envelope containing a business check for $1250 payable to a vendor. On December 28, I saw online on my Coconut Grove Bank account that this same check, which had already cleared, had been bleached and altered to $1256 and that the payee had been changed to "Marina Blue" and the signature line signed by a woman whose name I did not recognize. I called my bank officer at Coconut Grove Bank and told her of this stolen check. She confirmed that it had been paid -- with no endorsements of any kind on the reverse of the check -- to BankOne/Chase in downtown Miami. When she called BankOne/Chase to find out more about the bogus payee and the woman whose name was now on the check, BankOne/Chase told her that for "privacy reasons" that information could not be released without a formal request from Coconut Grove Bank which would take "60 to 90 days" to process.
Meanwhile, when I mentioned this to my business partner, he told me that he had also had over a dozen business checks stolen, which he had deposited INSIDE the Coconut Grove Post Office. Only one had been deposited before he stopped payment on all of them, but that one -- again, with no endorsements -- had been deposited at Mercantile Bank and paid with the payee lined through and another name substituted.
At this point, I called the Federal Attorney's office, since I was lucky enough to know someone in authority there. That resulted in two Postal Inspectors arriving at my office a few days later for full reports from both my partner and me. These inspectors also were going to talk to my bank officer, who now reported that more customers at Coconut Grove Bank were now reporting similar thefts of mail.
When I asked the Postal Inspectors how this theft was happening, with the pilfered checks being deposited with no traceable endorsements on the backs, they said, "The deposits are made through ATM machines. The monies are deposited in the credit or debit card holder's account with no endorsement required. If anyone were to bother making timely inquiry, the thieving card holder says 'Oh, that card was stolen.' But the main problem is that most of the banks, especially the big ones, can't be bothered with this low level stuff."
So that's how it stands so far. I've told the Postal Inspectors that both my partner and I will prosecute if they can find anyone to charge with these thefts. It certainly appears that there are one or more people INSIDE the Coconut Grove Post office who are involved with these thefts, since not all are occurring from deposits made outside at the drive thru box. How many checks have been stolen? Can anyone even find out? Are these thefts continuing? There was a recent story in the Miami Herald about mail theft in Hialeah so maybe it's not just a Grove problem. If ATM's are the means these criminals are using to go unpunished, then we need to change the laws pertaining to ATMs.
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