WEST MIAMI-DADE, FLA. (WSVN) - Early Thursday morning, police arrested seven unsuspecting South Florida residents for allegedly fishing mail out of post office mail boxes and cashing-in checks.
Police brought in the suspects, four men and three women, some still in pajamas, as part of a multi-agency operation called “Hook, Line and Sinker.” The operation, which lasted longer than 10 months, led to the arrests of three other suspects as well.
The multi-agency operation began after more than a dozen victims called the Coral Springs Police Department about potential fraud.
“We knew checks were stolen,” CSPD investigator Gene Cash said. “We knew they were fraudulently altered, and then, fraudulently, money was deposited into the defendants’ accounts.”
The U.S. Postal Inspections Service and the Miami-Dade Police Department also took part in the operation.
Cash said the suspects stole thousands of dollars.
“From all my twelve victims, it was just under $14,000, where they fraudulently altered the check and made it out to a higher amount, and that money was deducted out of my victims’ account,” Cash said.
During a press conference, U.S. Postal Inspector Tony Gomez demonstrated the technique they employed. “They affix the Gorilla tape at the end of a weighted piece,” explained Gomez. “They will literally drop it into the collection box and just start pulling up, and whatever sticks at the end of the tape is what they take.”
Gomez said they used fishing lines and hand-made tools.
“It’s incredible, as sophisticated as crime is, and it is very sophisticated, that this is about as archaic and arcane as it can get,” Gomez said.
The suspects were transported to a West Miami-Dade postal facility to be questioned and processed, at around 11 a.m. They were booked at the TGK Correctional Facility, Thursday afternoon.
The suspects now face charges of grand theft, racketeering and identify theft.
State prosecutor Julie Hogan said the suspects will be prosecuted at the state level by the U.S. Attorney General’s Office.
“The attorney general is committed to prosecuting crimes that victimize the citizens of the state of Florida,” Hogan said.
In addition to the seven suspects arrested, Thursday, two other suspects were taken into custody on similar charges, and one has been in contact with police with plans of self-surrendering.
As of Thursday, 10 suspects, ranging in age from 18 to 37, have been arrested.
The suspects could face up to 15 years in prison.
The U.S. Postal Service urges anyone who witnesses suspicious activity to notify police or to call the U.S. Postal Inspection hotline at 877-876-2455.
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