A 22-year-old Germantown resident allegedly connected to a check stealing ring was arrested by Cheltenham Police in the early hours of Sept. 29.
A 22-year-old Germantown resident allegedly connected to a check stealing ring was arrested by Cheltenham Police in the early hours of the morning on Sept. 29 after he was observed standing by drive-up mailboxes at the Elkins Park Post Office. The man, identified by police as Keyon Clark, of Germantown, dropped several pieces of mail as he fled from police into a wooded area and was later apprehended with the help of a K9 unit, according to police.
“We’re still just putting it all together with the stuff we recovered from his apartment,” said Cheltenham Police Lieutenant Andy Snyder. “There’s potentially hundreds of victims.”
Snyder said police found several shoeboxes full of checks, documents, credit cards and debit cards in his apartment. They also found a loaded, stolen handgun; a .22 caliber rifle and additional pieces of stolen U.S. mail, deposit slips and other evidence in a car linked to Clark.
Snyder said the victims came from all over the region, but were mostly from Philadelphia and the Cheltenham area. He couldn’t say whether any victims were from Chestnut Hill, Mt. Airy or Germantown.
A press release about the arrest states that over the past several months, Cheltenham police and U.S. postal inspectors have been investigating a series of mail thefts that have occurred in Cheltenham Township and the surrounding jurisdiction. Those thefts have resulted in “checks being stolen from mailboxes, having the payee and dollar amount altered and subsequently cashed at various financial institutions throughout the region,” the release states. Additionally, debit cards and other financial instruments have been stolen and used fraudulently.
A search warrant executed on the Clark’s residence in the 300 block of East Wister Street in Germantown, uncovered evidence linking him to dozens of victims, many of whom are elderly, the release said.
Clark is also currently wanted for access device fraud in North Wales Borough, according to police, for allegedly stealing and using a mail key.
At this time, victims are being identified and the total financial loss is still being quantified, police said.
Clark has been charged with theft by unlawful taking, access device fraud, identity theft, persons not to possess firearms and others.
Days after Clark’s arrest, on Oct. 4, United States Attorney Jacqueline C. Romero announced that Sam Wolo, 21, of Philadelphia; Bruno Nyanue, 20, also of Philadelphia; and Gransae Manue, 20, of Clifton Heights; were arrested and charged for their alleged roles in stealing checks from U.S. mail collection boxes in Drexel Hill and then fraudulently altering and depositing them.
Wolo, Nyanue and Manue were charged with indictment with conspiracy to commit bank fraud, bank fraud, aggravated identity theft, conspiracy to commit mail theft, possession of stolen mail, and robbery of a postal carrier.
As alleged in the indictment, between December 2021 and February 2022, the co-conspirators washed and altered checks they stole from the mail that belonged to victims who had mailed checks in Drexel Hill. The men altered the stolen checks to make them payable to third parties, often in amounts greater than the checks’ original value, without the victims’ knowledge or consent. As part of the scheme, the men deposited the fraudulently washed and altered checks into those third-party accounts, and in at least some instances, withdrew some of the fraudulently deposited funds.
The indictment further alleges that approximately 370 stolen checks and nine stolen money orders were recovered from Wolo’s apartment. The arrow key stolen by the men from the USPS letter carrier in Drexel Hill, as well as two stolen checks and two money orders, were also recovered from Wolo’s vehicle.
Altogether, the value of stolen checks and money orders recovered from Wolo’s apartment and car totaled more than $171,000.
“The United States Postal Service provides an essential service to nearly every American, often conveying income, bills and expenses which are the basis of many livelihoods,” said Romero. “If you choose to tamper with or steal U.S. mail for any reason, you can be assured that the federal government will conduct an intensive investigation and aggressive prosecution, as we intend to in this case.”
Raimundo Marrero, inspector in charge of the Philadelphia Division of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, said that people should be able to rely on U.S. mail to pay bills, conduct business and send letters “without fear that their mail will be stolen.”
“Investigating mail theft and violence against mail carriers are core missions of the Postal Inspection Service and we will work tirelessly, with our partners in local law enforcement and in state and federal prosecutors offices, to investigate and prosecute individuals who commit violence against postal employees and who steal the mail,” she said.