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Former Cook County Felony Prosecutor

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Rash of Mail Thefts and Check Fraud Have IL Cops on the Lookout

Mail is something that is so much a part of everyday life – it can be difficult to envision the types of crimes people commit surrounding it. But make no mistake, crimes involving mail are currently alive and well.

In fact, in Illinois, there’s been a rash of mail stolen from collection boxes outside of the Park Ridge post officer. The boxes were pried open, and the mail inside was stolen.

Many of these crimes go beyond simply taking mail. They leak into areas such as check fraud. One Illinois man wrote a check to cover his phone bill and discovered that it had been stolen and forged to become a $4,000 check to someone he didn’t know.

Crimes involving mail are serious since they can be not only state crimes but federal ones, too. Here’s what you need to know about mail theft, check fraud, and forgery in Illinois.

Mail Theft in Illinois

Mail theft is treated like any other type of theft in Illinois. That means when you take someone else’s property without their permission and with the intent to deprive them of it permanently, then you are guilty of theft – including when the property is mail.

There are a variety of different theft crimes in Illinois, but what they all have in common is that the severity of the charge is directly related to the value of the property taken. Also, the types of property stolen can impact the charges faced.

You can be charged with petty theft or something as serious as grand theft. And the method you’ve taken it – for example, if it’s done through force or fear – can make the charges faced more severe.

If you are found guilty of misdemeanor theft, then you can face up to one year in jail, fines of up to $2,500, and be required to pay restitution to the victim for any losses. Felony theft, on the other hand, can garner up to 15 years in prison and fines of as much as $500,000.

In Illinois, there’s even Class X felony theft, which usually involves theft from a school, church, or from government property. A Class X felony can send you to prison for up to 30 years and make you responsible for fines of as much as $25,000 on top of any restitution owed to the victims.

Mail Theft in Illinois

Mail theft can also lead to federal charges since the post office is a federal agency. Federal mail theft can lead to five years in prison and fines of as much as $250,000.

Check Fraud in Illinois

Check fraud is considered a deceptive practice in Illinois. It is comprised of distinct crimes, which include:

General Deception

This occurs when someone has the intent to defraud another and knowingly cause, through threat or deception, execution of a document disposing of property or a monetary obligation. It can also occur if the person knowingly permits the receipt of or receives an investment or deposit from an institution they know to be insolvent. If you use deceptive or false statements in public to promote the sale of services or property that are false, that is also considered general deception.

Bad Checks

Passing bad checks is a crime, as well. It occurs when someone intends to pay for or obtain control over property or services, and they deliver or issue a check knowing that it’s not valid. It also occurs when someone delivers or issues a check over $150 that they know will not be paid due to insufficient funds.

In most cases, those guilty of check fraud attempt to pass bad checks, use forged checks, or float checks. The penalties generally fall under Class A misdemeanor crimes, which means that it can result in up to one year in jail and fines of as much as $2,500. However, it can be a Class 4 felony in some cases, which can result in as many as three years in prison and fines of $25,000.

Forgery

Check Fraud in Illinois

The crime of forgery occurs when someone:

  • Intends to defraud another by knowingly creating a false document or altering an existing document to make it false
  • Delivers or issues a false document knowingly
  • Has in their possession with the intent to deliver a false document
  • Uses a digital signature unlawfully
  • Uses a signature device of someone else to unlawfully create an electronic signature

Forgery is considered a Class 3 felony in most cases, which can lead to five years behind bars and fines of as much as $25,000.

The moral of this story? Keep an eye on your mail, and don’t mess with mailboxes!

About the Author:

Andrew M. Weisberg is a former felony prosecutor who now serves as a defense attorney in the greater Chicago area. He has extensive experience in handling all types of criminal cases, from sex offenses and domestic violence to retail theft-related crimes, murder, and drug crimes. His work has been recognized by Avvo, Expertise, National Trial Lawyers, and others, and he has been featured on countless news outlets for his experience and knowledge in criminal law.

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