Two people were arrested yesterday for their roles in a scheme to steal and alter checks from the mail by using stolen U.S. Postal Service keys that access mail receptacles and to fraudulently obtain funds from banks by depositing the stolen and altered checks.
Baba Diakite, 20, of East Orange, and Nasir Johnson, 22, of Hillside, are each charged by complaint with bank fraud conspiracy, conspiracy to commit mail theft and possess stolen mail, and the theft and possession of U.S. Postal Service keys.
Both defendants appeared by videoconference before U.S. Magistrate Judge Leda Dunn Wettre.
According to U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger, documents filed in this case and statements made in court Diakite, Johnson, and others conspired to steal checks out of the mail in Essex, Hudson, Middlesex, Somerset, and Union counties from at least January 2020 to October 2021.
They sold the checks to third parties or deposited them, sometimes in altered or duplicate form, into the bank accounts of complicit accountholders who had provided access to their bank accounts for the scheme.
Diakite obtained stolen official USPS keys, which he used to access mail and steal checks directly from mail receptacles. Johnson also was in possession of at least one of those keys.
The bank fraud conspiracy is punishable by a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison.
The conspiracy to commit mail theft and possess stolen mail is punishable by a maximum penalty of five years in prison, and the theft and possession of stolen USPS keys is punishable by a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.
The bank fraud conspiracy also carries a fine of up to $1 million. All other charges are punishable by a maximum potential fine of up to $250,000 or twice the pecuniary gain or loss, whichever is greatest.
Both defendants have previous arrest records.