Former postal worker admits to stealing millions in checks from mail
MOBILE, Ala. (WALA/Gray News) - Two people, including a former postal worker, admitted Tuesday to a scheme to steal millions of dollars’ worth of business checks sent through the mail.
Kalaijha Tomeco Rainier Lewis and Brian Christopher Williams III pleaded guilty in federal court to conspiracy to commit bank fraud.
The offense carries a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison, although prosecutors have agreed to recommend leniency. In addition, the defendants have the possibility for a further sentencing break if they cooperate with prosecuting co-conspirators. A judge set sentencing for January.
Lewis, who worked as a clerk at a Mobile downtown post office, admitted that she took stacks of business checks over a roughly three-month period this year and then sold them to Williams. He and others then sold the checks online through an encrypted messaging platform called Telegram, according to Lewis’ written plea agreement. The total value of the stolen checks posted on the channel exceeded $17.7 million, according to the document.
U.S. Postal Inspection Service investigators began looking into complaints made in January by several Mobile-area businesses that had not received checks they were expecting.
In one example contained in the plea agreement, a marine business with a post office box at the post office reported not receiving a $39,916 check from a vendor in February. The next month, a general contractor in Mobile mailed a $58,184 check to a law firm. The check was deposited into a bank account of an unauthorized person, according to the plea agreement.
Dozens of businesses, most based in Mobile, made similar complaints to the U.S. Postal Service about stolen or counterfeit checks in their names.
According to the plea document, investigators began surveillance of the post office in June and spotted Lewis, 29, of Mobile, manipulating the windowed envelopes of checks to see the amounts. They also saw her sending text messages while placing her cell phone on top of certain pieces of mail, the plea document states.
On June 23, agents recorded Lewis untuck her shirt and shove multiple pieces of mail down her pants. Caught red-handed by agents who confronted her that day, Lewis removed 26 business checks from her pants. She told investigators that Williams, 25, of Theodore, paid her $2,000 to $3,000 per stack of stolen checks.
According to court records, Lewis agreed to meet Williams at a gas station. Law enforcement officers recorded her handing stolen checks to him. They arrested him on an outstanding warrant, charging him with first-degree assault.
According to Lewis’ plea document, officers found 53 stolen business checks totaling $417,238 in Williams’ 2023 Kia Sportage, which they seized from Sage Avenue in Mobile. Authorities also found eight credit or debit cards, according to Lewis’ plea agreement.
The plea document also cites incriminating evidence on cell phones containing dozens of messages discussing meet-ups in Birmingham, Homewood, Greenville and Saraland. In one message discussing a meet-up on June 15 with a co-conspirator, according to the plea document, Lewis wrote: “No police in the rain it literally rain every time I get on the road.”
Investigators also documented large cash infusions from CashApp into Lewis’ credit union account.
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