BLOOMFIELD TWP, Mich. (FOX 2) - A highly organized crime ring has been broken up in Oakland County with two people in custody and six others wanted for targeting more than 800 victims and stealing thousands of dollars.
Lt. Paul Schwab from the Bloomfield Township Police Department told FOX 2 the suspects involved would steal any financial information they could find in the mailboxes.
"Stimulus checks, unemployment checks, tax return, tax info," Schwab said.
The organized mail theft ring wasn't just after your birthday card from grandma with a crisp Alexander Hamilton inside it.
"I’m sure if they came across it they’d take it but, no, they’re after information. They are mining information they can use themselves for identity theft and fraud," Schwab said.
According to police, it all started in 2019 in Bloomfield Township when 27-year-old Malik Frazier was caught stealing mail from 40 homes. But investigators soon learned he was part of a bigger scheme.
"In your minds’ eye if you can imagine one storage building - these public storage units - and having three or four units opening them up. Front to back, floor to ceiling, (they were) full of other people’s mail," he said.
One neighborhood in Franklin was hit the hardest where one homeowner had $14,000 worth of checks stolen and cashed.
The mailbox and subsequent identity theft was so rampant, a task force was created and led by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
"These types of investigations are so complex, it is next to impossible - a local agency like ourselves in Bloomfield Township - we could not investigate this on our own," Schwab said.
The two-year-long investigation ended this week with Frazier arrested again plus Ronald Reese, also 27. Both Detroit men racked up federal charges but are already out on bond. Meanwhile, the feds are searching for 6 more suspects and there could be countless victims.
"This is a nationwide problem on a biblical proportion," Schwab said.
How to protect yourself from mail theft and identity theft
Police told FOX 2 there are ways to keep your finances and personal information safe but you have to take the following steps:
- Never mail anything from home
- If you're out of town, have someone get your mail
- Put a freeze on your credit so nobody can open up cards under your name