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KEEPING WESTCHESTER SAFE

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May 18, 2018 -- Westchester County District Attorney Anthony A. Scarpino, Jr. sent letters to Sen. Charles Schumer, Sen. Kristen Gillibrand, Rep. Nita Lowey and Rep. Elliot Engel this week calling on them to pressure the U.S. Postal Service to focus its attention and manpower on ending the rash of mail theft in communities throughout the county.

In recent months, police in Yonkers, Mount Vernon, White Plains, Tarrytown, Harrison, Purchase, Bronxville, New Rochelle, North Castle and other communities have been investigating incidents where

  • Curbside mailboxes were broken into either forcibly or by using a stolen key
  • Curbside mailboxes were stolen outright
  • Thieves used fishing techniques to take mail out of mailboxes
  • Household rural-style mailboxes were emptied of their contents

The Outcome: Thieves take checks or financial documents with personal identification which can be used for identity theft and financial fraud. In some cases, checks are “washed,” meaning cleaned and erased of original information, and the “Payable to” or payable amount or both are changed. They are then cashed or fraudulently deposited. Several arrests have been made.

Victims: In some cases, residents were accused of not paying their bills on time when checks were stolen. Others have reported being victims of identity theft. Others who sent money orders, which work like cash, lost the stolen money and still owed their recipient with no way to recoup the payment.

U.S. Postal Inspectors are charged with monitoring how mail is processed and delivered. And while, inspectors continue to work in our area, we contend there are not enough inspectors to keep up with the criminal activity we are seeing in our cities and towns. There are only six postal inspectors, a team leader and one analyst budgeted to oversee much of the Hudson Valley, specifically Bronx, Westchester, Rockland, Orange, Ulster, Sullivan, Duchess and parts of Columbia, Greene and Delaware counties.

And we’ve been told they have been short-staffed, down to three inspectors for some time, and now, there are only five.

In his letter to Westchester’s Congressional members, D.A. Scarpino wrote:

“Our office has been working with postal inspectors and local law enforcement to catch these thieves. Unfortunately, the number of postal inspectors assigned to Westchester is woefully inadequate.”

“We need you to intervene immediately with the United States Postal Service to have it initiate a comprehensive program to aggressively address this problem. Our constituents deserve better. This is a serious problem that has victimized thousands of innocent people.” (See full letter below)

The District Attorney’s Office will continue to work with local law enforcement to both protect our residents from this kind criminal activity and aggressively prosecute those involved.

Tips
In the meantime, residents can help protect themselves:

  • Do not place checks in mailboxes. Use online payment instead.
  • Write checks with gel-style ink that cannot be erased or “washed” like ink from a standard ballpoint pen.
  • Check your credit card and bank statements daily for any unusual activity.
  • If you think you have been the victim of fraud, the Federal Trade Commission strongly suggests you set up a “Fraud Alert” with credit bureaus. Follow the FTC's instructions.


Complete Letter to Sen. Charles Schumer and Sen. Kristen Gillibrand and Rep. Nita Lowey and Rep. Elliot Engel

May 15, 2018

Dear _______,

Westchester County has been experiencing a rash of thefts of mail. These thefts are occurring almost daily. Some of the crimes entail “fishing” the mail out of mailboxes, others involve the theft of the entire mailbox, and some involve the sale of the keys to the mailboxes by postal employees. 

Once the mail is stolen, the personal information is then used to “wash” the checks and steal the money. The other personal information is used for identity theft and other fraudulent activities.  Residents are being wrongly accused of not paying their bills because their payments are stolen by postal thieves.  

Our office has been working with Postal Inspectors and local law enforcement to catch these thieves.  Unfortunately, the number of postal inspectors assigned to Westchester is woefully inadequate.  We have been advised that there are three full-time inspectors assigned to cover the Bronx, Westchester and some northern counties.  Given the size of these counties and the pervasive thefts, this is ridiculous. 

We need you to intervene immediately with the United States Postal Service to have it initiate a comprehensive program to aggressively address this problem.  Our constituents deserve better.  This is a serious problem that has victimized thousands of innocent people.  People need to know their mail delivery system is safe and reliable.  Only strong leadership from our Congressional representatives will ensure that this is given the attention it deserves.   

Thank you for your consideration. 

Very truly yours,

ANTHONY A. SCARPINO, JR.

District Attorney

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Media contact:
media@westchesterda.net

(914) 995-3586