Rhode Island: Guilty Plea in “Fishing” of U.S. Mail Collection Boxes, Theft of Checks

PROVIDENCE, RI – One of two men charged in federal court in April with stealing mail from United States Postal Service collection boxes in and around Providence and Pawtucket by “fishing” out envelopes, today admitted his role in a conspiracy that resulted in the theft of mail and of more than $97,600 worth of checks from envelopes deposited in the collection boxes.

“Fishing” is a term which describes of obtaining items from U.S. Postal Service collection boxes by utilizing common items such as plastic water bottles, duct tape, glue, and string. A device covered in a sticky substance such as glue is lowered into the closed mail box, and mail that adheres to the sticky surface of the device is pulled out and retrieved.

It is alleged in court documents that Gerald Reinoso, 22, and Emmanuel Jose Torres, 18, and others working at their direction, deposited the stolen checks they obtained as the result of “fishing” the collection boxes in area banks. The funds were later withdrawn from ATMs and through the use of debit cards.

Reinoso appeared today before U.S. District Court Judge John J. McConnell, Jr., and pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail theft and conspiracy to commit bank fraud, announced United States Attorney Stephen G. Dambruch, Joseph W. Cronin, Inspector in Charge of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Boston Division, and Stephen Marks, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Secret Service.

Reinoso is scheduled to be sentenced on March 12, 2019. Torres is awaiting trial.

According to court documents, in May 2017, U.S. Postal Service Inspectors initiated an investigation into the theft of mail from a collection box outside of the Washington Park Post Office after multiple complaints of mail being stolen. Then, in September 2017, a local businessman reported that numerous pieces of mail deposited into collection boxes outside the Elmwood Station Post Office were never received by the intended recipients. Many of the pieces of mail contained checks.

As the investigation expanded, Postal Inspectors learned that numerous pieces of mail, some containing checks that were deposited into collection boxes at locations in and around Providence, did not reach their intended recipients. Agents determined that many of the missing checks were found to have been fraudulently endorsed, deposited into bank accounts, and the funds then withdrawn.

Postal Inspectors installed surveillance cameras outside of the Elmwood Station and Washington Park Post Offices, focused on collection boxes. Surveillance video showed several individuals “fishing” the mailboxes in the early morning hours. Among those identified by Postal Service Inspectors were Gerald Reinoso and Emmanuel Jose Torres.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Ly T. Chin.

The matter was investigated by the United States Postal Inspection Service and the United States Secret Service, with the assistance of the East Providence, Providence and Seekonk Police Departments.