Four Fresno residents have been charged with postal crimes and bank fraud.
Police had been watching the men for months. According to two federal indictments, investigators found stolen mail, altered checks and counterfeit postal keys.
Police say they have busted a Fresno crew they say is responsible for over 200 mailbox burglaries. They say the organized crime happened all across the north end of Fresno. “We obtained a backpack full of mail and tried to find the victims matching the evidence,” says Fresno Police Sgt. Sherree Flores.
Police have arrested two but need help locating two others; 28-year-old Kou Vang and 22-year-old Scott Pedro. “We have a warrant for their arrest we are looking for them,” says Flores.
According to police, the group was targeting community mailboxes using homemade keys to break-in. “The suspects made keys to open locks and empty out every mail box that's in the group,” says Flores.
Investigators allege the men were taking checks and credit card statements. Police say the men would wash the checks, changing the names and amounts, and then cash them in. According to the indictment, they also deposited some of the money after setting up bank accounts in the victim’s name.
The four men are facing federal charges from two separate indictments. All are being charged with conspiracy to possess counterfeit keys, stolen mail and to commit bank fraud. Police say the two outstanding men, Vang and Pedro, were found in possession of the counterfeit mail keys. Police say Vang also cashed one of the altered checks in his name. “They make many copies of that one check and they can empty bank accounts,” says Flores.
If convicted the four men could each face up to 35 years in prison and nearly $2million dollars in fines.
Police have a few tips to help keep your payments as safe as possible. They say bank online, drop off mail at the post office, get a post office box or get your mail as soon as it’s delivered.
Christina Lusby, Reporting.