CCSO: Man tried cashing checks he’s accused of stealing from mailboxes

Another scary case of check fraud as Collier County Sheriff’s Office deputies said a man tried to cash several checks that were not his. He was found with checks belonging to five different accounts.

Bankers at First Florida Integrity Bank stopped Adriel Rivero, 21, from trying to commit fraud. Investigators said he tried to cash a check and claimed to be an employee of the company it was addressed to.

“If it’s in somebody’s mind,” said Meerpohl, who worked in insurance and liability for the bank. “They’re going to try to attempt it and you just have to be vigilant to not let it happen.”

When staff questioned it, Rivero left.

“Bankers are under a tremendous amount of pressure,” Meerpohl said. “The face that they put forward to the public, when they can be confident and catch someone in the act or stop something before it escalates.”

Meerpohl is a customer, but also used to do insurance work for the branch. He said staff go through extensive training to ensure their ability to stop criminals.

“That’s why use a bank guaranteed by the federal government,” said Robert Earheart, a customer at the bank.

But it did not end there. Rivero came back in with a different check. That is when police stepped in and found 14 other in an envelope in his car.

All the checks found were traced back to different people and businesses in the Golden Gate City area. Investigators are working to find out exactly how Rivero got a hold of them.

Additional deputies, along with detectives from the Economic Crimes Unit, responded to assist with the investigation.

Rivero was arrested and booked into the jail on the felony charges.

Detectives notified the U.S. Postal Service of the arrest. They also notified the owners of the recovered checks.

The Collier County Sheriff’s Office has received reports of checks being stolen from mailboxes in recent months. Often these checks are then washed with ink-removing chemicals and rewritten to a new payee for large amounts of money.

CCSO offers following tips to help prevent becoming a victim of mail theft/check washing:

  • Bank online. Refrain from mailing checks, cash, gift cards or other negotiable items if possible. Check with your bank’s online services as most offer secure and easy-to-use phone apps.
  • If you must send a check in the mail, use a gel pen to write checks as ballpoint pen ink can be easily washed off a check.
  • Drop off mail at the post office. Take mail containing checks directly to the post office counter to be mailed, and record the names of the postal employees who take the check in case an issue arises later on.
  • Use plain white envelopes to mail checks. Do not use return envelopes with the utility logo or municipality for tax payments on them. These tend to be easy targets for thieves.
  • Monitor bank activity. Check bank activity online and review bank statements as soon as they are received to check for discrepancies.
  • See something, say something. Be sure to call 911 if you see any suspicious activity near any mailbox.
  • Report the theft. If you have been a victim of mail theft, call the United States Postal Inspectors Service at 877-876-2455 and choose option 4.
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