RIVERSIDE, California– A Corona man who had a stolen, blue mail-collection box in his living room was arrested today on federal charges that allege he stole mail, “washed” checks that he found and cashed the checks using a stolen identity.
Paul Wagner, 28, was arrested this morning without incident and is expected to be arraigned in United States District Court this afternoon on a three-count indictment.
Wagner is charged with bank fraud, aggravated identity theft and possession of stolen mail.
Wagner allegedly participated in a scheme that stole mail to find checks. Once Wagner obtained the checks, he would “wash” the checks – meaning that he would remove the payee's name by physically scraping off the ink or using chemicals to erase the ink. After the check had been washed, Wagner altered the payee to make the check payable to the name of the identity theft victim, according to the indictment.
The indictment specifically alleges that Wagner cashed a check at a Bank of America branch on November 15, 2015 using a driver's license with the name of an identity theft victim.
During a search of residence on March 1, authorities recovered hundreds of stolen checks, check-washing materials, and a large mail collection box that had been stolen from a street in Riverside.
“The frequency of mail theft is rising at a concerning rate across Southern California,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “This criminal activity harms both individuals and businesses in large numbers, and we appreciate the efforts of the Postal Inspection Service in combating this trend.”
Robert Wemyss, Inspector in Charge of the Postal Inspection Service's Los Angeles Division, noted, “Anyone who attempts to remove mail from a U.S. mail receptacle should be aware that Postal Inspectors, with the full cooperation of their law enforcement partners, will vigorously pursue, arrest, and bring to justice anyone who commits a crime against the U.S. Postal Service or its customers.”
An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.
If he convicted of the charges in the indictment, Wagner would face a statutory maximum sentence of 37 years in federal prison.
This case was investigated by the United States Postal Inspection Service and the Riverside County Sheriff's Department.
Topic: Financial Fraud Identity Theft Updated April 7, 2016
Central District of California DOJ / 16-069 / April 7, 2016