8 Arrested In $20,000 Scheme To Steal Checks From Mailboxes

SPRINGDALE (KFSM) – Springdale police and the U.S. Secret Service have arrested eight suspects they say stole checks out of people’s mailboxes and forged them to cash in on more than $20,000, according to a statement released Monday by the Springdale Police Department.

Christopher Evans, 30, Michelle Mast, 35, Candice Watkins, 26, Spencer Mason, 32, Erick Picker-Ramirez, 34, William Bashlor, 29, Angelina Elliott, 29, and Shawn Cox, 31, were arrested on suspicion of forgery, theft of property and continuing a criminal enterprise, along with other potential felony charges, police said.

Springdale police on June 25 began investigating reports of checks that were being stolen out of local residents’ mailboxes and being cashed and forged at banks throughout Northwest Arkansas. An investigation into the case led police to 705 McKinney St., the base of operation for the check-forging scheme, according to the Springdale Police Department.

Police, along with members of the Secret Service and the U.S. Postal Service, served a warrant Friday on the location and said they found computers, scanners, printers, stolen checks, stolen mail, methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia.

Police said the suspects were stealing checks out of mailboxes, altering them and cashing them at local banks. The suspects also made fake identification cards and fake checks, according to Springdale police.

The investigation is ongoing, and the total dollar amount stolen exceeds $20,000, police said.

Mast was released Saturday from the Washington County Detention Center on $3,500 bond. All of the other suspects remained Monday in jail.  Cox received a $100,000 bond, while Bashlor has a $2,500 bond. Erick Picker-Ramirez was given a $5,000 bond, and Watkins has a $3,500 bond. Evans’ bond was set at $5,000.

Elliott and Mason have no bond set, according to the Washington County Sheriff’s Office website.

Six suspects were arrested last month in a check-washing scheme, in which the suspects allegedly stole checks out of mailboxes. Police said the two cases are likely related.

Springdale police started investigating Cox’s role in the matter after a woman came forward July 7 saying she had written a $50 check and placed it in the mail. She later found out $389 had been taken out of her account, according to a preliminary arrest report released by the Washington County Prosecutor’s Office.

Secret Service Agent Aaron Baker became involved in the case two days later because of the large number of local cases involving the theft of checks from area mailboxes, the report states.

Authorities discovered the woman’s check was made out to Cox for $389. He admitted to investigators in an interview to the check-washing scheme, saying he passed more than 60 checks between May and June, negotiating at least $24,000 from local banks by stealing and altering checks, according to the preliminary report.

Each check was at least $400, with some being written for $800. Cox allegedly told investigators he stole the checks from P. O. boxes.

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