By Jonathan Sperling
It was the catch of the day — for cops from the 102nd Precinct.
Two men believed to be behind a series of mailbox fishings — a scheme in which a makeshift rod is lowered into a mailbox for the purpose of stealing mailed checks, cash or other items of value — were arrested and charged, Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown announced on Friday.
Alvaro Martinez, 28 and Luis Velazquez, 22, of Manhattan and the Bronx respectively, were arraigned on Friday after investigators say the duo pilfered multiple mailboxes throughout Richmond Hill and Forest Hills.
“Paying bills or sending a gift check to a loved one is now a real hazard if dropped in a mailbox thanks to these growing “fishing” schemes. The defendants in this case were allegedly caught red handed with their makeshift rods in the belly of blue mailboxes.
These two individuals allegedly sought to enrich themselves by taking advantage of others’ long-held trust that once you place your mail in the box, it’ll get to the intended recipient. The pair nabbed by police will now face prison time for their “fishing” expedition.”
The string of thefts began at around 4:30 a.m. on Oct. 29, when Velazquez was allegedly caught on surveillance video standing in front of a blue U.S. Postal Service mailbox at 64th Avenue and 108th Street in Forest Hills, along with a second box about a block away.
Velazquez can be seen on the video inserting an object into the mailboxes and pulling it out again along with pieces of mail, according to court filings.
On Nov. 17, at around 4 a.m., Martinez was observed on video surveillance standing in front of a blue mailbox at 62nd Drive and 108th Street, also in Forest Hills. Martizen could allegedly be seen on the video placing something inside the mailbox and then retrieving that item along with mail attached.
In a third incident, which occurred around 3:50 a.m. on Nov. 28 both Velazquez and Martinez were spotted at the intersection of Lefferts Boulevard and Jamaica Avenue in Richmond Hill. Martinez was allegedly seen with his hands near the opening slot of a mailbox while Velazquez leaned on the box.
As a NYPD detective approached, both men moved away from the mailbox, but a shoestring was left dangling from the slot, prosecutors said.
A member of the U.S. Postal Police later opened the box and found the shoestring attached to a juice bottle covered with glue.
Velazquez later admitted that a nearby vehicle belonged to him and inside that car police recovered dozens of pieces of both unopened and opened mail along with mouse and rat glue traps, which are commonly slathered on an object used to “fish” mail from boxes, according to Brown. One of the recovered envelopes contained a check for $4,000.
Martinez and Velazquez were charged with charged with third-degree burglary, first-degree criminal tampering, third-degree criminal possession of stolen property, first-degree identity theft and possession of burglar’s tools. They are ordered to return to court on Dec. 13 and face up to seven years in prison if convicted.