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10 Indicted for Stealing $500K Via Check Fraud, Mail Theft

A familiar sight on area side streets: Steep steps make it difficult to bring heavy mail carts into buildings. Unattended, they provide opportunities for theft. | File photo by Scott Stiffler

BY DUSICA SUE MALESEVIC | The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office last week indicted 10 people accused of stealing more than $500,000 from various banks through a scheme that involved check fraud and mail theft, according to court documents and a press release.

“US mail dates back to 1775 but remains a vehicle for complex frauds like identity theft in 2018,” District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. said in the Tues., April 10 press release announcing the indictment.

The defendants allegedly orchestrated “an elaborate check fraud scheme that included altering checks stolen at random from the mail,” Vance said.

He added, “What’s more, the defendants knowingly recruited disadvantaged New Yorkers in desperate need of cash at homeless shelters and public assistance offices in order to broaden their scheme.”

From around May 2011 to October 2017, Craig Haffaney, 48, Andre Evans, 54, and James Anderson, 31, paid those they recruited to set up bank accounts and then to hand over their debit cards and personal information, according to the New York State Supreme Court indictment and the release.

The three men, Nyomi Anderson, 37, and Dorrinda Bell, 63, allegedly used the bank accounts to deposit forged checks, and then withdrew money before the banks rejected the checks, according to court papers. The defendants are accused of running this scam at TD Bank, Capital One Bank, Bank of America and Citibank, according to the indictment. Court papers show a separate but related scheme allegedly involving fraudulent wire transfers at USALLIANCE Financial.

“Mr. Haffaney and his ‘crew’ thought they were very clever when they stalked [United States] Postal [Service] employees and stole US mail from USPS satchel (push) carts. They were looking for checks to fund their bank fraud scam,” Philip R. Bartlett, inspector in charge of the New York division for the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), said in the release.

He added, “Let me be crystal clear, if you steal the mail you’re going to jail.”

Haffaney and Evans allegedly “directed co-conspirators to steal mail in order to obtain checks that could be altered for use in the scheme,” according to the release.

Four mail carts were stolen in the Chelsea area, including one cart full of mail that was swiped on W. 19th St. between Sixth and Seventh Aves. in January. It was later found empty, Chelsea Now reported in February.

The January theft spurred resident concern about the safety of the mail, with one resident getting their checks stolen and a suspect unsuccessfully trying to cash it.

The 10 defendants were “all collusive in the theft of the mail,” USPIS spokesperson Donna Harris said by phone. The USPIS is the federal law enforcement arm of the postal service.

Harris said the defendants were allegedly responsible for stealing the four mail carts. The DA’s office declined to comment. Lieutenant John Grimpel, an NYPD spokesperson, referred questions confirming the cart thefts to the postal inspection service and the DA’s office.

Grimpel did confirm in an email that “at least 19 mail carts have been stolen… since the summer,” 11 of which were south of 59th St. between Oct. 2 and March 15, which the New York Post reported in a March 26 article.

The mail cart thefts were not part of the indictment, and Harris said later in an email, “As to why the mail charge is not listed or how we know they are responsible, those details are part of the investigation and will not be disclosed.”

She added, “Their alleged offenses have impacted US Postal Service employees and the many customers who place their trust in the US mail. We hope this arrest… sends a strong message to anyone who steals the mail and then uses it to steal from our customers; we will find you and bring you to justice.”

The 10 defendants — who include Eric Benson, 68, Atanda Nuraina, 58, Dierdre Johnson, 44, Kendra Golden, 44, and Darline Gregory, 45 — face several counts including grand larceny in the second degree, criminal possession of stolen property in the third degree, and scheme to defraud in the first degree, according to the indictment.

They have been arraigned and are scheduled to appear next in court on May 30, according to the DA’s office.

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