A car spotted weaving between lanes on northbound Interstate 95 last month led to the discovery of more than $100,000 in business checks stolen from the Hanover Air Park and other area locations.
Lareese Martlelles Mallety, 24, no address available, is facing federal charges of theft and receipt of stolen mail and possessing a firearm as a convicted felon, according to a nine-page criminal complaint and accompanying affidavit filed in federal court this week.
Derek Mullins, a U.S. Postal Inspector, states in his affidavit : “I know that individuals, specifically from the Fayetteville area of North Carolina and the Atlanta area of Georgia, often use rental vehicles to drive to the Richmond area of Virginia for the purposes of stealing mail.”
“These individuals have, for years, targeted the Hanover Air Park, as well as other business parks, as a preferred destination due to the ease of access to a large number of mail receptacles,” according to Mullins. The thieves alter the name and address of the payees, often to a homeless person willing to enter a bank and cash the check.
Mallety allegedly told investigators that he had made two or three trips to Virginia, during which mail was stolen from both curbside mailboxes with no security features and out of locked mailboxes. He said he and others used a pry bar to open the boxes.
Authorities allege Mallety was the passenger in a rental car stopped by the Virginia State Police while headed north on I-95 near Emporia on Oct. 9. The vehicle was said to be moving 15 miles an hour under the posted speed limit and was failing to maintain lane control. Mullins said a trooper noticed “a strong odor consistent with marijuana emanating from the vehicle.”
Several of the checks found in the car were addressed to or from businesses in the air park, located on Air Park Road, not far from I-95 in Hanover County.
Authorities say a search of the vehicle turned up a black duffel bag holding a typewriter, extra ribbon, razor blades and business checks in U.S. Mail envelopes from the Richmond area.
In total, 40 business checks were found in the vehicle along with three U.S. Mail parcels, a small pry bar, two boxes of ammunition and a Smith & Wesson handgun. The dates on the checks ranged from July 16 through Oct. 6.
“Many of the businesses were unaware that their checks had been stolen, but most were aware that checks they had sent did not make it to the intended recipient,” Mullins reported.
The driver fled on foot across the interstate, and a subsequent pursuit with a tracking dog failed to locate him.