The Madison Police Department on Thursday, Dec. 22, issued a theft by receiving warrant against a man believed to be part of a criminal conspiracy to steal mail and defraud persons of more than $35,000 through altering checks.
According to Det. Andre Johnson, Madison Police Department, a warrant against Shawn R. McDonald, 26, Dacula, was taken after Johnson had acquired McDonald’s identity from a photo captured at a Bank of America ATM machine in Walton County while McDonald was attempting to deposit a fraudulent check from Madison into one of four suspected accounts.
Johnson said Madison authorities requested and received a subpoena for Bank of America records including the photo of the transaction. That photo was then sent to the Georgia Department of Driver’s Services where the department was able to identify McDonald.
A photo of a second suspect making a deposit did not provide a clear image, Johnson said.
Johnson said since Nov. 18, the police department had received six complaints of check fraud all, he said, that emanated from checks stolen from the mail collection boxes behind the Madison Post Office. The Morgan County Sheriff’s Office has received two complaints of forgery, both related to checks stolen from the collection box.
Since the theft of mail became evident, postal workers placed a sign on both collection boxes advising customers not to use the boxes and to bring the mail inside. It has not worked, Johnson said. “Every day they go out there and get mail out of those boxes.”
Johnson said investigators believe someone used a folded piece of cardboard to place down the mail chute. The cardboard would hold the mail until a suspect returned and pulled the cardboard back up the chute. Johnson said based on the complaints, authorities believe that sometime after Nov. 18, the mail was stolen. “In a three-week span they stole the mail twice.”
He said after checks were removed, the suspects would change names and amounts. “I’m not sure how they wash it out but they were able to change the name and the amount.” The amount on the checks varied but all were changed to more than $7,000. “Either he washed them out or somebody else did. His part of this was to deposit them in an account.”
After the forgery, authorities allege, McDonald and a second man then deposited the forged checks into four different accounts at Bank of America ATM locations in Walton County and one in Lawrenceville. The accounts are registered to two Covington men, a man from North Carolina and a man from Michigan.
Johnson said he drove to Covington to investigate the two Covington account holders and found an empty residence at one suspect’s location. At the second, he said, he was able to record license numbers that he then gave Morgan County Sheriff’s Office investigators to cross reference in their FLOCK license plate reader system to determine if any vehicle had been in Morgan County at the time of the mail thefts.
Fortunately, Johnson said, no money has been lost in the scam.
“They were hoping one of the checks would clear just long enough so they could get the money,” he said. “No one has lost any money.”
All four attempts were flagged by either the Bank of America or the issuing bank, he said.
McDonald also faces forgery and theft charges in Walton County. Currently his whereabouts are unknown, Johnson said. “The warrant will find him,” he said.
Johnson said he believes the post office boxes in Madison were targeted, in part, because of the size of the community. “They think they can come in, get what they want, and go,” he said. He also said the theft of mail was not peculiar to Madison. “The postmaster told me it was happening all the way up the coast,” he said.
“It’s got to be a ring.”
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