Five postal workers busted in $750k credit card theft scheme
Five postal workers were busted Wednesday for stealing more than 1,000 credit cards from mail they were supposed to deliver that were ultimately used to bankroll high-end spending sprees, prosecutors announced.
A total of seven defendants operated a complicated scheme from 2017 to 2019 spearheaded by Michael Richards, 37, who recruited other USPS workers to steal cards from their routes in Manhattan and Brooklyn — and as far away as Burke, Va. — that Richards then used to ring up about $750,000 in purchases, prosecutors said.
The seven, including five USPS employees, were indicted in Manhattan Criminal Court Wednesday afternoon; all were released without bail. None commented as they walked into the courtroom handcuffed.
“This holiday season, we know that identity thieves will be targeting not just our inboxes, but our mailboxes,” said District Attorney Vance. “So, we’re putting scammers on notice: the Manhattan D.A.’s Office has the expertise, resources, and partnerships in cybercrime and identity theft to find you and hold you accountable.
“The case revolves around a conspiracy to steal credit cards out of the mail. Mr. Richards was the ringleader,” Assistant District Attorney Alexander Owen said in court Wednesday.
Richards had postal workers Kennisha Murrell, 36; Curquand Highsmith, 31; Bruce Bienvenu, 31; and Kenneth Freeman Jr., 25 steal the cards from their routes, prosecutors claimed.
After the workers stole the cards, Richards connected with Justin Forgenie, 33, to give him personal identifying information on the victims that Forgenie retrieved from online databases, allowing their use, prosecutors said.
Once they had access to the cards and info, Richards had Tatiana Smith, 34, allegedly purchase “high-end goods” that he’d resell for cash. At Richards’ direction, Smith made purchases from Hermes, Chanel and Louis Vuitton, among other stores.
Richards was wearing bright Air Force 1 sneakers and an “Off-White” hoodie at his arraignment Wednesday.
Sometimes they would buy items and then return them for cash, prosecutors said.
The couriers were only caught when a credit card company noticed in early 2019 that many of their cards were not reaching the rightful owners and notified the USPS, prosecutors said.
Also embroiled in the scheme was Shamar Haughton, 38, who allegedly picked up the stolen cards from USPS workers.
The inspector in charge of the United States Postal Inspection Service, Phillip Bartlett, called the arrested postal workers “a few bad actors” who should not sully the reputations of the 640,000 other “professional and dedicated employees” of USPS.
“Today’s arrests of this gang of criminals is an example of the commitment of Postal Inspectors and their law enforcement partners to bring those to justice for illegal acts against the public, no matter where they are found,” Bartlett said.
The defendants in the case were variously charged with conspiracy, grand larceny, identity theft and criminal possession of stolen property.