Florida Man Pleads Guilty to Federal Conspiracy and Bank Fraud Charges in New Mexico Arising Out of Mail Theft Scheme
Defendant Perpetuated Scheme by Stealing Mail from USPS Collection Boxes at U.S. Post Offices in Albuquerque
ALBUQUERQUE – Hector Lau, 21, of Miami, Fla., pled guilty today in federal court in Albuquerque, N.M., to conspiracy and bank fraud charges arising out of a scheme to steal mail from U.S. Postal Service (USPS) mail collection boxes at U.S. Post Offices in the Albuquerque area in July and Aug. 2017.
U.S. Postal Inspectors arrested Lau and co-defendants Jorge R. Cabrera, 20, Yarelys Marquez, 19, and Fernando Cairo-Rosell, 29, all of Albuquerque, on Aug. 30, 2017, based on criminal complaints charging them with theft of mail and bank fraud charges. The criminal complaints alleged that in July and Aug. 2017, mail collection boxes at USPS stations in Albuquerque repeatedly were broken into and mail was stolen. The U.S. Postal Inspection Service initiated an investigation into the scheme after receiving complaints that checks deposited in the mail collection boxes had been stolen, altered and deposited into accounts held by the defendants.
The four defendants subsequently were charged with conspiracy and nine counts of bank fraud in a ten-count indictment, which was filed on Sept. 21, 2017. According to the indictment, the four defendants participated in a conspiracy to commit bank fraud that began in July 2017 and continued until Aug. 2017, and operated in Bernalillo County, N.M. The indictment also charges the four defendants with committing bank fraud against four credit unions that maintain branches in Albuquerque. The indictment charged the defendants with conspiracy to commit bank fraud by stealing checks that had been deposited in U.S. mail depositories, altering the checks, and attempting to pass the checks off as legitimate to banking institutions. It alleged that as part of their bank fraud scheme, the defendants deposited checks, which had been altered to make them payable to members of their conspiracy and in amounts ranging from $500 to $4,754, into bank accounts held by members of the conspiracy.
During today’s proceedings, Lau pled guilty to conspiracy and five counts of bank fraud under a plea agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office. In entering the guilty plea, Lau admitted that from July 10, 2017 through Aug. 9, 2017, he conspired with others to deposit altered checks, which he knew had been stolen from mailboxes throughout Albuquerque, into checking accounts held by Lau and a co-defendant. Lau further admitted that on July 14, 2017, July 16, 2017, and July 24, 2017, his co-defendants deposited stolen checks with terms re-written into Lau’s checking account without the owner’s permission. Lau also admitted that on July 28, 2017, he deposed a stolen check into a co-defendant’s checking account without the owner’s permission. According to the plea agreement, the stolen checks deposited into Lau’s account totaled $6,932.04.
Lau’s three co-defendants previously have entered guilty pleas. Cairo-Rosell pled guilty on Dec. 4, 2017, and was sentenced on Feb. 21, 2018. Cabrera pled guilty on Feb. 15, 2018, and Marquez pled guilty on Jan. 10, 2018.
At sentencing, Lau, Cabrera, and Marquez each face a maximum penalty of 30 years in federal prison. Sentencing hearings have yet to be scheduled.
This case was investigated by the Albuquerque office of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Shaheen P. Torgoley.