Three Philadelphia-Area Men Charged in Connection With Scheme to Wash and Alter Checks Stolen from USPS Collection Boxes

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FILE PHOTO: Signage is seen at the United States Department of Justice headquarters in Washington, D.C.

PHILADELPHIA – United States Attorney Jacqueline C. Romero announced that Naod Tsegay, 22, of Collingdale, PA; Fode Bangoura, 20, of Philadelphia, PA; and Zyier Williams, 19, also of Philadelphia, PA, were arrested and charged by Indictment with bank fraud, aggravated identity theft, possession of stolen United States Postal Service (USPS) keys, and possession of stolen mail. The charges arise from the defendants’ alleged scheme to fraudulently alter and deposit personal and business checks that had been stolen from the U.S. mail. 

The Indictment alleges that between March and June 2021, Tsegay and his co-defendants recruited individuals to provide their bank account and debit card information, and then used those recruits’ bank accounts to deposit checks that had been stolen from blue USPS collection boxes located throughout the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Each of the victims confirmed that they placed their checks in the mail at various blue collection boxes near their homes but their checks never reached the intended recipients. According to the Indictment, after altering the checks by changing the designated payees and increasing the dollar amount of the checks—often from a nominal sum to a payment of several thousand dollars—Tsegay allegedly deposited the stolen checks into the recruits’ bank accounts and later withdrew or attempted to withdraw the fraudulently deposited funds. The Indictment further alleges that Tsegay was ultimately found in unlawful possession of dozens of checks and money orders stolen from USPS collection boxes, as well as two Arrow Keys—keys belonging to USPS that are used by Postal employees to access blue collection boxes throughout the District. The total amount stolen or attempted stolen as a result of the defendants’ scheme exceeded $200,000.

“The United States Postal Service provides an essential service to nearly every citizen, often conveying income, bills and expenses which are the basis of many livelihoods,” said U.S. Attorney Romero. “If you choose to tamper with or steal U.S. mail for any reason, you can be assured that the federal government will conduct an intense investigation and aggressive prosecution, as we intend to in this case.”

“The United States Postal Inspection Service investigates many different crimes that affect the Postal Service, its customers, or that use the mail in the commission of the crime,” said Damon Wood, Inspector in Charge of the Philadelphia Division. “One of its original missions however, was to investigate the theft of mail. When folks use the mail to pay bills, send birthday cards, send business documents, or simply hope to receive a new pair of shoes that were ordered online, they should do so without fear that those items might be stolen. We have been working, and will continue to work, to identify, investigate, arrest, and support the prosecution of those responsible for stealing mail and shaking our collective trust in the mail system. I want to thank the United States Attorney’s Office and the numerous local police departments for working with us to bring these charges against these three individuals.”

If convicted, the defendants face mandatory terms of imprisonment and a fine of at least $1 million.

The case was investigated by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Yeadon Borough Police Department, and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Jessica Rice.

An indictment, information, or criminal complaint is an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.