Police investigating after “mail fisher” steals checks from mailboxes in EP

EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) – The East Providence Police Department is warning residents of a so-called “mail fisher” who stole mail from U.S. Postal Service boxes at the Grove Avenue post office branch.

Detectives said they’ve been getting complaints recently from residents who said checks they sent in the mail were cashed fraudulently.

“We have about six or seven active cases at this time, all originating from the same time period, out of the same area,” said Captain James Nelson.

Nelson said they did some investigating and realized all of the checks were dropped off in the mailboxes at the Grove Avenue branch in early December. People are just now noticing, after realizing their bills went unpaid last month, gifts never arrived, and their accounts were drained.

“They’re noticing that fraudulent checks are showing up on their account for different amounts that they wrote them for, same check number, different names,” said Nelson.

Police believe the thief is using a device made from wire or string and a sticky substance, that can easily grab the mail out of the box. They said extra mail was found near the post boxes after the suspect dumped everything that didn’t contain a check.

“They’re able to wash the ink away using chemicals, and then able to put a new name on them, and also a new amount in many cases.”

Nelson said it’s hard to track who is responsible, as the money will often get bounced to different accounts, sometimes even overseas.

Capt. Nelson said he hopes residents will take extra precautions like paying their bills online or just going inside the post office to mail their checks.

“I like to actually personally get my information to someone. That one on one contact is important these days,” said resident Jai Calo-Townsend.

Police said USPS is on top of the issue and are working to replace the blue post office boxes with new ones that have smaller slits and are harder to get into.

© WLNE-TV 2019