AUSTIN (KXAN) — A batch of 16 checks mailed from a Westlake mailbox intended to support a charity were stolen, reproduced and used at several stores throughout the city, according to police.
Ronda Greiner, 32, and 27-year-old Gabriel Herrera were arrested Thursday after police raided their room at an Extended Stay America, 10100 N. Capital of Texas Highway, in Northwest Austin.
Travis County Deputies say the pair stole checks out of their victims’ home mailboxes and made copies of those checks to make more purchases. In the suspect’s hotel room authorities say they found laminators, check copying software, and evidence that leads them to believe that they were making counterfeit checks themselves.
“You can buy programs from any office supply store to make your own checks as long as you have your routing numbers and apparently that’s what they were doing,” said Roger Wade with The Travis County Sheriff’s Office.
During the investigation, Travis County Sheriff’s deputies reached out to area law enforcement after obtaining surveillance photos of one of the suspects in hopes someone would recognize the man.
A response from a detective with the Austin Police Department and U.S. Secret Service Task Force identified the man as Herrera, who was linked to Greiner through an APD report, an arrest affidavit said.
Further investigation and surveillance photos linked Herrera and Greiner to other stores including Target, Office Max and Randall’s, the document said.
So far Herrera and Greiner have been connected to at least four identity theft victims, but there may be more. Investigators are now trying to determine if they were a part of a larger operation.
The US Postal Inspector says the pair may be tied to a string of mail box thefts at different USPS locations.
“We believe they are generally looking for checks, notable items, gift cards, and credit cards; anything that can be turned into quick cash,” said US Postal Inspector, Michael Sullivan.
The two were charged with fraudulent possession of identifying information, a state jail felony. Both Greiner and Herrera’s bonds were set at more than $60,000.
While it’s a crime that can happen to anyone, authorities say there are some things you can do to protect yourself.
“My suggestion is if you are going to mail a check or pay bills, drop the check off at the post office don’t put it in your mailbox,” Wade said.
They also recommend checking your bank statements often to make sure your information isn’t stolen.