A man was arrested for allegedly stealing multiple stimulus checks and other mail in Sunset Park, federal prosecutors announced Wednesday.
Feng Chen, 31, was arraigned on April 29 on charges of theft of mail, including credit cards, multiple checks and nine Economic Impact Payments (“EIP”) from the United States Treasury Department, otherwise known as “stimulus payments.” If convicted, Chen faces up to five years in prison.
“For many families, these stimulus checks are a lifeline in these difficult times and anyone who tries to cut that lifeline will face the full weight of the law,” United States Attorney Richard Donoghue said in a statement. “This Office will vigorously prosecute all those who seek to take advantage of the public health crisis. I commend the NYPD police officers for their truly outstanding work and service under difficult conditions.”
According to court documents, on the morning of April 28, two NYPD officers allegedly saw Chen looking inside of a collection bin outside of a closed medical office in Sunset Park. Afterward, the officers allegedly saw Chen walk to a nearby residential building and examine mail left at the door.
Chen was then allegedly spotted leaving the building carrying mail. When Chen saw the officers, he tossed the mail on the sidewalk, authorities said.
According to the criminal complaint, Chen allegedly first told the officers that he was delivering food to someone in the building, later saying that he was waiting for someone he knew in the building and then changing his story once more to say that he lived there. The complaint states that when Chen told the officers his name and birthdate, it was discovered that he had an open bench warrant in New York County for a criminal case involving identity theft.
He was subsequently placed under arrest.
According to court documents, police soon noticed that Chen had a bulge in his jacket pocket. The officers searched Chen and allegedly found checks, EIPs totaling more than $12,000, credit cards, opened envelopes and letters bearing the names of various individuals and mail addresses.
“The COVID-19 crisis has placed tremendous stress on underserved communities across this country. The Economic Impact Payments are, in many cases, the lifeline needed by these individuals to stay afloat during this crisis. When Mr. Chen stole these checks, he robbed recipients of these much needed funds. Postal Inspectors and their law enforcement partners have no tolerance for the theft of mail, especially during these unprecedented times,” stated USPIS Inspector-in-Charge Phillip Bartlett.
United States Attorney Donoghue is encouraging the public to report suspected fraud related to COVID-19 by calling the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) hotline (1-866-720-5721) or to the NCDF e-mail address firstname.lastname@example.org. For information on how to identify or report fraud involving Economic Impact Payments, visit tips.tigta.gov.
This story first appeared on AMNY.com