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Thursday, February 09, 2017

Check washing

I go out of my way to bring mail to the post office for mailing. I don't leave it in corner mailboxes or even at my own home for pick up, but apparently even the post office is not safe.

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.

For linking to this one story, just click on the time it was posted & just this story will open for sharing - only through social media. Not copying and pasting.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank for the information as I always send out checks at the Grove post office.

February 09, 2017 8:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Someone at that post office stole checks and credit card statements from us a few years ago. We reported it to the inspector but never heard back about arrests or results.

February 09, 2017 2:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe someone is fishing the mail out of the drive-thru mail box.

February 09, 2017 4:08 PM  
Anonymous Matt said...

For an additional perspective, the drive-through mailbox outside has been overflowing with mail from time to time. I could literally reach in to grab hand fulls of mail if I chose to do such. I obviously did not leave any mail in that drive-through box that day. So beware, perhaps it is not an "inside job", but and "outside job" for local nefarious characters with a clever scheme.

February 09, 2017 4:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This has happened to me three times recently with checks deposited at mail boxes around Coconut Grove (once I even handed it to a mail person walking by which is more disturbing-- only to find out when it reached the recipient the check had been ripped out). This is definitely becoming an epidemic!

February 09, 2017 4:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had Jewlery package with a insured and pre paid return label that I deposited inside the grove PO. It never made it to its destination this was a few years ago. I made a formal complaint thru the USPS. Of course they took no responsibility and AmX covered the loss. Then about 3 weeks ago I sent a gift card in a card envelope. It arrived torn open, no explanation , no USPS bag with their standard note. It was put into a locked mailbox so the carrier had to see it and still deposited it,,, by the way the card "in question "travelled" one block: from center St to 27th Ave. this too I reported. To USPS. Got a confirmation # and everything. Iif you have an hour of your day to waste on reporting it to their 800# it might help. Personally I Don't expect to get any satisfaction. It's just not the way the world operates these days.

February 09, 2017 4:44 PM  
Anonymous Andy Parrish said...

If you read the original post thoroughly, you'd see that mail was stolen that had been deposited both INSIDE and OUTSIDE at the Coconut Grove Post Office, so it's not all just fishing mail from the outside drop box. The real point is that the theft is ongoing despite being reported to the various authorities. If indeed it is true that stolen checks can be cashed at ATM machines with no endorsements required, making the thefts that much harder to track, then it is likely that more and more criminals will discover the ATMs as their preferred way to bank their proceeds.

February 10, 2017 10:26 AM  
Anonymous swlip said...

Thanks for posting. This is why we bank electronically.

February 11, 2017 9:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

have you been to CG post office lately? I don't know how some of those working there could have passed the civil service exam.
this is why TRUMP was elected

February 17, 2017 5:20 PM  

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