FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, October 1, 2018
Four Defendants, Including Former Postal Worker, Indicted for Stealing
Checks from Mail; Many Intended for Impoverished Social Service Clients
Allegedly Rifled Through Mail Bags Searching for Envelopes Containing Checks
Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, together with United States Postal Service, Office of the Inspector General, Northeast Area Field Office, Special Agent in Charge Matthew Modafferi, today announced that four defendants have been charged in connection with a scheme in which they stole U.S. mail, including checks intended for homeless and other impoverished people totaling more than $29,000 over a three-month period.
District Attorney Gonzalez said, “A former postal employee entrusted with the public’s most important and private mail, allegedly violated that trust when she and her co-defendants allegedly pilfered the mail and stole from the most vulnerable among us, including residents of homeless shelters. We will now seek to hold them accountable.”
Special Agent in Charge Modafferi said, “The Special Agents of the U.S. Postal Service of Inspector General are committed to protecting the integrity of the U.S. Mail. When a postal employee abuses their position and the public’s trust, USPS OIG Special Agents will work with their law enforcement partners to ensure all those involved are held responsible for their actions.”
The District Attorney identified the defendants as Vanessa Bandie, 29, of Canarsie; Lauren Johnson, 27, of East New York; Paul Daniels, 30, of East New York; and James Black, 30, of East New York. The defendants are variously charged in a 21-count indictment with third-degree grand larceny, third-degree bribe receiving, fourth-degree grand larceny, first-degree scheme to defraud, second- and third-degree identity theft, second-degree for receiving reward for misconduct, petit larceny, and official misconduct. They were arraigned today before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun, who ordered Johnson, Daniels and Black to return to court on November 28, 2018. He set Bandie’s next court date to December 5, 2018.
The District Attorney said that, according to the investigation, between October 25, 2016 and December 27, 2016, the defendants allegedly acted together to steal approximately $29,200 in checks ranging from less than $100 to more than $1,000 from 66 people, including checks totaling $3,700 from eight people who were residents of a housing facility run by the Bowery Residents’ Committee, a not-for-profit that provides services to homeless New Yorkers.
It is alleged that, according to the investigation, Vanessa Bandie, a letter carrier, was approached on her route in East New York by defendant James Black, who asked her to identify envelopes that looked like they might contain checks and, along with Lauren Johnson, bring them to a Pay-O-Matic check-cashing location where another defendant, Paul Daniels, would cash them. Bandie allegedly agreed in return for a portion of the proceeds. According to the investigation, Bandie and Johnson looked for envelopes from the New York City Human Resources Administration and other social service agencies, for the specific purpose of taking and cashing any checks they contained.
It is alleged that the defendants brought the checks to the Pay-O-Matic at 2488 Linden Boulevard, where employee Paul Daniels allegedly cashed the checks illegally for a portion of the proceeds. The scheme was discovered by a Pay-O-Matic security director who uncovered irregularities in Daniels work and reported it to inspectors for the U.S. Postal Service.
The case was investigated by New York City Police Detectives Shirley Chambers and Adrianne Jones, of the NYPD’s Kings County District Attorney’s Squad, along with Special Agents Jacabed Ventura and Ana Bourdon, of the U.S. Postal Service, Office of the Inspector General.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Elizabeth Kurtz, of the District Attorney’s Frauds Bureau and Special Assistant District Attorney Renee Hassel, of the District Attorney’s Public Integrity Unit, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Michel Spanakos, Public Integrity Unit Chief, and the overall supervision of Assistant District Attorney Patricia McNeill, Deputy Chief of the District Attorney’s Investigations Division and Mark Feldman, Senior Executive District Attorney for Crime Strategies and Investigations.
An indictment is an accusatory instrument and not proof of a defendant’s guilt.