Man who sold fake Native Art to Seattle customers sentenced to two years of probation and 200 hours of community service for violations of the Indian Arts and Crafts Act
A mail thief who broke into locked mailboxes to steal checks and identities was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to 44 months in prison and four years of supervised release, announced U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan. WILFREDO BERMUDEZ, 40, of Seattle, was arrested in November 2012 after 13 months of breaking into mailboxes in the Puget Sound region. BERMUDEZ stole mail in three different counties, including checks, driver’s licenses, and other items by breaking into victims’ mailboxes. He often threw away or destroyed the remainder of victims’ mail, and left the mailbox damaged or unusable in the process. At sentencing U.S. District Judge Richard A. Jones noted the many victims who had mail stolen and their bank accounts violated saying, “It may seem like it is just the theft of one check, but it can be a disaster in that person’s life.”
According to records filed in the case, BERMUDEZ cashed or attempted to cash checks from 27 different victims, including a church. The loss amount in this case is nearly $80,000. After stealing the mail, BERMUDEZ would alter the payee and the amount of the stolen checks and cash them at various banks. Sometimes he made the checks payable to his own name, and on other occasions he used a stolen driver’s license and forged checks to be made payable to that identity. In some instances, he even wore a costume to make his fraud more convincing; in early November 2012, he cashed and attempted to cash forged checks referencing “heat and cold system replacement” while wearing a plumber’s outfit. BERMUDEZ was captured on surveillance video breaking in to the locked mailbox at a business plaza. The red Hummer he purchased with the proceeds of his crimes is visible in the video.
In asking for a sentence of more than four years in prison, prosecutors noted that many victims had their lives disrupted by the thefts, forcing them to make time consuming changes to various accounts, cancel vacations and change the way they use the mails. Employees of a victimized church had their paychecks delayed while the church changed bank accounts. One victim, a recent immigrant to the U.S., was pestered by creditors because BERMUDEZ had used his identity to run up big debts. BERMUDEZ has two prior state convictions for identity theft.
The lead investigative agency on the case is the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), which was assisted by many local police agencies who responded to reports of mailbox thefts in King, Pierce and Thurston counties.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Ehren Reynolds.