Eight Charged In Conspiracy To Steal Checks From U.S. Mail

NEWARK – Eight people accused of being involved in a scheme to steal personal checks from the U.S. mail and fraudulently endorse and deposit them into their personal bank accounts were charged Wednesday morning in connection with their alleged roles in the bank fraud, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.

Karron Hinton-Lovelace, 26, and Garnet Hinton, 22, both of Union; Kurtis Steele, 22, of Irvington; and Hassan Childs, 25, Keonnah McLean, 22, Martell Arline, 21, Constance Bowles, 21, and Guy Hicks, 49, all of Newark; were charged by complaint with conspiracy to commit bank fraud.

Hinton-Lovelace, Steele, McLean and Bowles were arrested at their homes Wednesday morning by agents of the FBI and inspectors of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. Arline and Hinton turned themselves in to the FBI. Childs was still being sought at the time of the announcement. Hicks was already in custody in the Union County Jail on unrelated state charges.

According to the complaint and other documents filed in this case:

The defendants and other co-conspirators allegedly stole from unsuspecting victims blank checks that were sent to the victims via the U.S. Mail. The defendants are then accused of fraudulently endorsing the blank checks and depositing them into legitimate bank accounts they and/or unnamed co-conspirators opened at the victim banks, which included TD Bank, Bank of America, Capital One Bank, Garden State Community Bank, Hudson City Savings Bank, PNC Bank and Valley National Bank.

Before the victims discovered their checks were stolen and/or the banks discovered checks were fraudulently endorsed, the defendants had allegedly withdrawn the funds, either via ATMs or by entering the bank and filling out a withdrawal slip. U.S. Postal Inspection Service and FBI agents were able to obtain bank video surveillance, which captured many of the allegedly fraudulent deposits and withdrawals.

The defendants allegedly deposited $1,478,695 in fraudulent checks stolen from 122 victims into 258 different bank accounts. The defendants’ alleged conduct resulted in $625,000 in losses.

If found guilty, the defendants each face a maximum potential penalty of 30 years in prison on the conspiracy charge and a maximum fine of $1 million or twice the gross gain or loss resulting from the offense.

Fishman credited postal inspectors of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, under the direction of Inspector in Charge Philip R. Bartlett; and special agents of the FBI under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Michael B. Ward for the investigation leading to the arrests.

The charges and allegations made in the complaint are merely accusations and the defendants are considered innocent unless and until proven guilty.

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