Arrests were made and bond set for four of seven people named in connection to crimes in which postal carriers are said to have stolen debit and credit cards from the mail of Naperville area residents, to be used in a money laundering scheme.
Named in the 11-count indictment filed in DuPage County are Vosheaa Haynes 36, of Aurora; Shavonna Taylor, 33, of Aurora; Ariel Jakes, 21, of Naperville; Deyona Tucker, 30, of Chicago; Laketha Britton, 27, of Chicago; Octavia May, 29, of Romeoville; and Stephanie Brown, 35, of Chicago, according to a press release from the DuPage County States Attorney’s office.
Authorities accuse the defendants of redeeming gift cards for money as part of a scheme involving postal carriers Taylor and Jakes, who delivered mail throughout Naperville. They are alleged to have stolen credit/debit cards from the mail and given them to Haynes.
Authorities say Haynes and other defendants would activate the stolen credit/debit cards and then use them to purchase Visa/MasterCard gift cards from various stores, including Home Depot, Walmart, and Sam’s Club. It is alleged that they would then visit currency exchanges in Oak Park and Chicago where they could redeem the gift cards for money.
According to the press release, an investigation was prompted when the victims whose debit cards were expected to expire never received their new replacement cards. Law officials allege the defendants swindled more than $50,000 from approximately 40 victims, most of who live in Naperville.
“The charges against these seven individuals are the direct result of local and federal agencies working together for the common good,” DuPage County State’s Attorney Bob Berlin said in a statement. “The allegations that these seven individuals, two of whom were employees of the federal government, stole victims’ identities in an attempt to line their own pockets at the expense of others are very disturbing.”
Haynes is facing a series of felony charges including organizing a continuing financial crimes enterprise, continuing a financial crimes enterprise, mail fraud, wire fraud and identity theft.
All of the other defendants were charged with continuing financial crimes enterprise and identity theft. In addition, Taylor and Jakes face mail fraud and wire fraud charges. The two were identified as employees of the postal service at the time of the alleged scheme.
Taylor, Jakes, Brown and Hayes were all taken into custody and then released after posting bond. Britton, Tucker and May each have arrest warrants that remain in force for $100,000. Judge Margaret “Peggy” O’Connell also granted a motion for a hearing to determine if the funds used by Taylor to pay for bond were obtained illegally.
The theft and money laundering crime was uncovered through a joint investigation conducted by representatives from the DuPage County State’s Attorney’s Office, the Naperville Police Department, and U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General for the Great Lakes Area Field Office.
Berlin thanked the U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General as well as the Naperville Police Department for uncovering this alleged scheme and bringing it to attention for prosecution. He also thanked Assistant State’s Attorney Steven Lupa for his work in unraveling this elaborate scheme.
“This was outstanding work by our investigations personnel, and I want to thank them all for their commitment to solving this long-term case and seeking justice for the victims,” Naperville Interim Police Chief Jason Arres said in a statement.
Special Agent-in-Charge Andre Martin, Great Lakes Area Field Office, U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General said, stressed the importance of collaborating work with law enforcement partners to maintain the integrity and trust in the U.S. Mail.
“The majority of postal employees are hard-working public servants dedicated to moving mail to its proper destination,” Martin said in a statement. “Unfortunately, those arrested decided to betray the public’s trust and steal mail from postal customers.”
The case will be heard in court before Judge O’Connell.
Naperville News 17’s Megann Horstead reports.
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