A total of 11 reputed members and associates of a Queens gang are facing a slew of charges after fishing out checks from USPS mailboxes, removing payee names and amounts, and cashing them with new amounts and names, according to prosecutors.
The group of men and women are allegedly affiliated with the SNOW street gang and were variously charged on Wednesday with forgery, criminal possession of a forged instrument, criminal possession of stolen property, identity theft, possession of burglar’s tools and tampering with private communications.
“It is alleged that the SNOW gang, through their members and associates, have become involved in the practice of ‘fishing,’ ‘washing,’ and cashing forged checks in the hopes of yielding greater revenue to finance their alleged criminal activities,” Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown said.
According to Brown, 22-year-old Malik Franklin of Jamaica, Queens was seen “fishing” checks from a United States Postal Service mailbox on Dec. 9, 2015. At about 6 a.m. police received a call of a man in a gray hooded sweater shirt removing mail from the blue mailbox and then entering a silver or gray vehicle.
When police arrived at the intersection of 119th Avenue and 228th Street, they allegedly saw Franklin wearing the hoodie and driving the silver/gray 2005 Honda Civic. Cops then pursued the car, which was traveling very fast, but lost sight of it when it made a turn and went through a red light.
Minutes later police allegedly witnessed a car accident on the corner of 121st Street and Springfield Boulevard and saw Franklin inside the driver’s seat with various mail correspondence and checks inside the car, authorities said.
According to prosecutors, other individuals who allegedly fished and washed checks were Terell Bishop, 33, of Brooklyn, Queens residents Darryl Carrington, 26, and Alexus Warren, 19, who on Jan. 11 were seen by police in a 1998 Nissan Altima blocking a driveway at the intersection of 134th Avenue and 154th Street.
Inside the car police allegedly saw two homemade devices — which are commonly used to fish mail out of U.S. Post Office mailboxes. The police then also recovered various checks from inside the car that had been stolen. Some of the checks had the payee’s name and payment amount changed, while others were in the process of being changed.
Robert J. Augustin, 21, of Jamaica, Queens was also charged with being a “washer” and a check casher. Augustin allegedly told police that he started cashing stolen checks in September 2015, and that he would “wash” the checks and cash them at a later date with his name on them. He added that he made about $25,000 from stealing mail and cashing checks.
Authorities have also charged Queens residents Anthony Brannon, 23, Tawayna M. Piper, 32, Henry Brown, 30, Yuri Oluh, 16, and Jamal Woodford, 31; and Brooklyn resident Devon Depeazer, 22 who allegedly worked as check cashers and received between $50 and $100 for each check that they cashed.
“As alleged, these SNOW gang members systematically defrauded victims out of thousands of dollars by forging checks that they stole from U.S. Postal Service mailboxes,” Police Commissioner William Bratton said. “Let these arrests send a message to gangs who want to operate in our city: The NYPD, along with its law enforcement partners, will work relentlessly to hold you responsible for all of your criminal acts.”
If convicted, the men and women — who allegedly cashed more than $33,500 in forged checks in the last two months alone — variously face between four to seven years in prison.