LYNDHURST, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — On a quiet street in Lyndhurst a pair of low-level scam artists have allegedly been ripping off refunds, one house and one mailbox at a time.
Police say Leandro Mendez, 19, and Victor Valencia, 20, were grabbing tax refund checks made out to dead people, illegal aliens and minors.
Neighbors told CBS 2’s Derricke Dennis on Wednesday night that the crimes were unsettling.
“It’s frightening, because it’s like an invasion of privacy. We don’t usually have problems like this here,” resident Teresa Meyer said.
Meyer lives along Lake Avenue where several of her neighbors had their mailboxes pilfered late last week.
Illegal tax refund checks were mailed to specific houses on the block and grabbed before homeowners knew what was going on.
“They used these legitimate addresses with fictitious names on the checks, and they were given a list of addresses to go and pull the mail from,” Lyndhurst Police Chief James O’Connor said.
According to O’Connor the operation is widespread.
Similar cases have been seen on Long Island and in Westchester County. In each location bogus tax returns were filed online, with the Internal Revenue Service providing approximate dates for when the checks would be delivered.
Mendez and Valencia would allegedly grab the checks for an unknown ringleader in exchange for $100 a day.
Authorities said they are unsure of how many homes were targeted and they refused to comment on how the alleged scammers were able to get the checks sent to the mailboxes.
The suspects were apprehended by a resident who saw them in the act and called 911.
Chief O’Connor praised the good Samaritan, who chose not to be identified.
“It’s like we always say, if you see something, say something,” O’Connor said.
Doing so could prevent this refund rip off from happening where you live.
What do you think of these accused mailbox raiders making off with refund checks? Let us know in our comments section below…