CLEVELAND, Ohio — A U.S. Postal Service mail carrier sold a master key that unlocked dozens of blue boxes in the area to a group who used it to steal mail and carry out a 1.5 check fraud scheme million dollars, according to federal prosecutors.
The postman, Cameron Proctor, sold the key for $2,500 to the ring that stole the mail from Cuyahoga County boxes, prosecutors said. Proctor, 20, of Willowick, and 10 others were charged in an unsealed indictment Thursday in federal court in Cleveland.
Prosecutors charged members of the group – who called themselves “Young Sack Chasers” or “YSC” – with conspiracy to commit bank fraud, bank fraud and possession of stolen mail. Proctor is further accused of stealing mail by a postal worker.
Cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer has reached out to Proctor’s attorney, Justin Roberts, for comment. A message left for the US Postal Service spokeswoman was not immediately returned.
The case is the second in recent weeks involving the rampant theft of blue boxes in 2021 which prompted local postal agents to warn people to stop using them and instead post directly from post offices.
A grand jury last week entered an indictment against four men accused of stealing blue box keys at gunpoint from postal carriers and carrying out a sophisticated coin-making scheme. fake checks. This group is also charged in a car theft ring in which they conspired with cohorts in Detroit to steal and trade high-end stolen cars, prosecutors say.
U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesman Dan Ball said the group had no known connection to the group charged Thursday.
In addition to Proctor, authorities arrested five other people named in Thursday’s indictment: William Saunders, 21, of Cleveland Heights; Rashawn J. Creer, 22, of Cleveland Heights; Maurice Mowler, 22, from Kent; Antoine Whitsett, 22, of Euclid; and Tyrone Williams, 21, of Euclid.
All six pleaded not guilty in arraignment before U.S. District Judge Thomas Parker. Saunders has been remanded in custody until a detention hearing next week. The other five were released on bonds of $20,000.
Another man, Tavion Bolden, 22, of Cleveland, was arrested earlier in the week, pleaded not guilty and was also released on $20,000 bond.
Tim Kucharski, who represents Creer, said his client pleaded not guilty and declined to comment further. Roger Pelagalli, who represents Mowler, said he will vigorously defend his client. Attorney Edwin Vargas, who represents Whitsett, said he was early in the process and once he reviews the evidence in the case he will make a decision on how best to defend his client. Francis Garczyca, who represents Williams, declined to comment.
Cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer contacted the other defense attorneys named in the case.
Four other people charged in the case remain at large: Elijah S. Payne, 21, of Streetsboro; Latrent M. Redrick, 25, of Cleveland, Janiya MN Smith, 22, of Richmond Heights; and Lady M. Walker, 28, of Cleveland.
The indictment says checks were stolen from blue boxes in Cleveland, Brooklyn, Middleburgh Heights and Parma from November through May.
Payne, identified as one of the leaders of the group, had previously had access to the blue boxes before contacting Proctor, according to the indictment. Court records do not explain how.
He then contacted Williams to see if he knew anyone who worked for the Postal Service. Williams put him in touch with Proctor, who initially offered to sell a master key and 10 checks for $3,500. The price eventually dropped to $2,500, according to court records.
Proctor sweetened the deal by saying he could direct the group to blue boxes on his route, according to court records. He then met with Whitsett at Euclid to close the deal, according to court records. Proctor also stole two US Treasury checks totaling $1,000 and gave them to the group.
Prosecutors said Payne and Saunders then stole mail from the boxes and specifically targeted checks and mail containing bank account information. They and other members of the group used the information to alter and forge checks, prosecutors say.
Members of the group recruited others to cash or deposit the fake checks, usually using mobile apps or at ATMs, and gave them a share of the money, prosecutors said. Recruiters were paid between $100 and $200 for each person they brought into the program, according to court records.
At least six other people who have not been charged helped cash fake checks, court records show.