EAST ST. LOUIS – A federal grand jury returned a 10-count indictment charging three area individuals with various crimes for their alleged involvement in a mail theft scheme from collection boxes in Fairview Heights.

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Tylann J. Starks, 29, of Swansea, is facing one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, four counts of bank fraud, two counts of aggravated identity theft and one count of conspiracy to steal U.S. mail. Tiara D. Johnson, 32, of Cahokia Heights, is facing one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, one count of bank fraud, and one count of conspiracy to steal U.S. mail. Jamil Jackson, 51, is facing one count of conspiracy to steal U.S. mail, one count of theft of a specialized key to access U.S. postal receptacles, and one count of making false statements to a federal law enforcement officer.

“Thieves are targeting mail collection boxes as a site to commit fraud,” said U.S. Attorney Rachelle Aud Crowe. “Law enforcement is committed to investigating individuals who steal checks from the mail and manipulate the payee and amount sections to personally enrich themselves.”

The U.S. Postal Service uses specialized keys, commonly referred to as arrow keys, to service and open mail collection boxes. Arrow keys are labeled with serial numbers so they can be tracked.

“The U.S. Postal Inspection Service is charged with defending the nation’s mail system. With the collaborative investigative efforts of multiple law enforcement agencies, Postal Inspectors investigate and pursue those individuals who defraud unwitting victims by stealing their identities and attacking their personal well-being, such as those involved in this investigation” said Inspector in Charge Ruth Mendonça who leads the Chicago Division of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, which includes the St. Louis Field Office.

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According to court documents, Starks purchased an arrow key from former postal employee Jackson to gain access to mail collection boxes throughout the Metro East. Agents conducted an undercover purchase of a second arrow key from Jamil Jackson for $1,000.

Starks and Johnson would search collection boxes for checks in order to exploit bank account and personal identifying information from victims from February 2020 through February 2023. Jackson would steal checks out of mail from his route that he provided to Starks. The conspirators also used the stolen account information to generate counterfeit checks.

“This indictment represents the hard work and dedication by USPS OIG Special Agents and U.S. Postal Inspectors working with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to bring charges on this significant mail theft investigation,” said Special Agent in Charge Dennus Bishop, U.S. Postal Service, Office of Inspector General, Central Area Field Office. “The majority of postal employees are hard-working public servants dedicated to moving mail to its proper destination. The USPS OIG, along with our law enforcement partners, remain committed to safeguarding the U.S. Mail and ensuring the accountability and integrity of U.S. Postal Service employees.”

Starks and Johnson would then cash, deposit or otherwise negotiate the stolen and counterfeit checks at area businesses, banks and ATM machines in Belleville, East St. Louis and O’Fallon.

An indictment is merely a formal charge against a defendant. Under the law, a defendant is presumed to be innocent of a charge until proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt to the satisfaction of a jury.

If convicted, conspiracy to commit bank fraud and bank fraud charges are punishable by up to 30 years’ imprisonment; aggravated identity theft and stealing post office keys can carry sentences of up to 10 years’ imprisonment; conspiracy to steal U.S. mail and false statement convictions can garner up to five years in federal prison.

Agents with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the U.S. Postal Service, Office of Inspector General contributed to the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Weinhoeft is prosecuting the case.

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