MOBILE, Ala. — Two Alabama residents, including a former postal worker, admitted on Tuesday to participating in a scheme to steal millions of dollars worth of business checks sent through the mail, authorities said.
Kalaijha Tomeco Rainier Lewis, 29, of Mobile, and Brian Christopher Williams III, 25, of Theodore, pleaded guilty in federal court to conspiracy to commit bank fraud, according to WALA-TV.
The charges carry a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison, the television station reported.
According to prosecutors, Lewis, who worked as a clerk in Mobile at a U.S. Post Office on St. Joseph Street, admitted that she took stacks of business checks over a three-month period this year. She then allegedly sold the checks to Williams, according to WALA.
Prosecutors said that Williams and other persons sold the checks online through Telegram, an encrypted messaging platform.
WALA, citing Williams’ plea agreement. reported that the value of the stolen checks posted on Telegram topped $17.7 million.
Investigators with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service said they responded to complaints in January by several businesses in the Mobile area that had not received checks, according to the television station.
Prosecutors cited one example of a marine business with a box at the post office failing to receive a check for $39,916 from a vendor in February, WALA reported. The following month, a check for $58,184 was mailed to a law firm from a general contractor and deposited into the bank account of an unauthorized person, according to Williams’ plea agreement.
On June 23, agents observed Lewis shoving multiple pieces of mail down her pants, according to the television station. Confronted by agents that day, Lewis allegedly removed 26 business checks from her pants. She allegedly told investigators that Williams paid her between $2,000 and $3,000 for each stack of stolen checks.
According to Lewis’ plea document, investigators found 53 stolen business checks totaling $417,238 in Williams’ 2023 Kia Sportage, WALA reported. They also reportedly found eight credit or debit cards.