PROVIDENCE, RI – Two Providence men have been charged in federal court in Providence with theft by “fishing” mail from enclosed United States Postal Service collection boxes and bank fraud.
“Fishing” is a term which describes of obtaining items, as in these alleged incidents from U.S. Postal Service collection boxes, by utilizing common items such as plastic water bottles, duct tape, glue, and string. A device covered in a sticky substance such as glue is lowered into the closed box, and mail that adhered to the sticky surface of the device is pulled out and retrieved.
It is alleged in court documents that the two men, and others working at their direction, deposited in area banks stolen checks obtained as the result of “fishing” Postal Service collection boxes. The funds from the stolen checks were later withdrawn from ATMs and through the use of debit cards.
Gerald Reinoso-Pichardo, 22, and Emmanuel Jose Torres, 18, have been charged by way of federal criminal complaints with theft or receipt of stolen mail, conspiracy to commit bank fraud, and bank fraud, announced United States Attorney Stephen G. Dambruch, Raymond D. Moss, Acting Inspector in Charge of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Boston Division, and Stephen Marks, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Secret Service.
The two men were released on unsecured bond at initial appearances in U.S. District Court before U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Lincoln D. Almond.
According to court documents, in September 2017, U.S. Postal Service Inspectors initiated an investigation into the theft of mail from collection boxes outside of the Elmwood Station Post Office. The investigation began when a local businessman reported that numerous checks drawn on his business bank accounts and deposited into U.S. Postal Service collection boxes outside the Elmwood Station Post Office were never received by the intendent recipients.
The investigation determined that the businessman mailed 77 checks valued at a total of approximately $195,000. Thirty-two of the checks were found to have been fraudulently negotiated and deposited into bank accounts at various banks. The bank accounts were quickly drawn down through the use of debit cards and/or by withdrawing cash from ATMs.
As the investigation expanded, U.S. Postal Inspectors learned that numerous checks and other mail deposited into U.S. Postal Service collection boxes at locations around Providence and Pawtucket did not reach their intended recipients. Postal Service Inspectors determined that many of the missing checks that had been placed in Postal Service collection boxes were found to have been fraudulently endorsed, deposited into bank accounts, and the cash withdrawn from ATMs or through the use of debit cards.
As part of the investigation, U.S. Postal Inspectors installed surveillance cameras outside of the Elmwood Station and Washington Park Post Offices, focused on collection boxes. Surveillance video showed several individuals allegedly “fishing” the mailboxes, often times in the early morning hours. Among those identified by U.S. Postal Service Inspectors were Gerald Reinoso-Pichardo and Emmanuel Jose Torres.
A criminal complaint is merely an allegation and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Ly T. Chin.
The matter was investigated by the United States Postal Inspection Service and the United States Secret Service, with the assistance of the East Providence, Providence and Seekonk Police Departments.