Metro fraud detectives warn citizens not to put checks in the mail

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The Metro Police Fraud Unit is warning residents after a woman was arrested in multiple cities for stealing checks from people’s mailboxes and trying to pass them at big box stores.

Sgt. Michael Warren of the Metro Fraud Unit says it all begins when citizens write a check, place it in their mailbox, and put their flag up. It announces to the postal carrier that you have mail. It also announces to would-be criminals that you probably have a check in your unprotected mailbox.

“To me, the red flag is like blood in the water for a shark,” Sgt. Warren said. “I’ve said it before, if it was not illegal, I’d rip all the red flags off the boxes. Criminals are just waiting for you to write a check and leave it alone all day in your unprotected mailbox. Because the bad guys know when you raise that flag, 90% of the time you have a check in there.”

According to Sgt. Warren, a check has over 12 pieces of personal identification that a criminal can use to steal from you or take your identity. That includes your name, address, and phone number. Some checks have driver’s license numbers. All checks have routing numbers and account numbers.

Warren says some low-level scam artists wash the check using chemicals and write over the check. More sophisticated pros take the information from the stolen checks and then use that to make a brand new check with fictitious names.

Adam Lanning was victimized this past February. He wrote a check, placed it in his mailbox, raised the red flag, and then forgot about it. Two weeks later, when the recipient called and asked about the check, Lanning did some investigating.

He saw that his $200 check had been changed to $1,200 and cashed by Quintara Coleman. Lanning said he felt victimized and angry.

“I wanted to stop her so it did not happen to anyone else,” Lanning said.

News 2 investigated Coleman, documenting close to $50,000 in stolen checks in Spring Hill. Police say she was caught trying to pass the checks at the Walmart.

On June 16, Ashland City Police were called to the local Walmart. That’s where they found Coleman in a rented U-Haul parked in a handicap space. She had nine checks that police say had been stolen out of Nashville.

Coleman was charged with identity theft, nine counts of stolen property, and criminal simulation. Police say she made a $24,000 bond and is due back in Cheatham County court in December.

Meanwhile, her Spring Hill case will probably be presented to a Williamson County Grand Jury.

In addition, Metro has two charges against her in Davidson County. Sgt. Warren confirms that Coleman often uses homeless people to either steal the checks from the mailboxes or cash them at financial institutions.

“Unfortunately for her she is more well known in Davidson County,” Sgt. Warren said. “It is not as easy for her to walk into these banks and check cashing companies to pass these washed checks. So she will incorporate mules, people who don’t necessarily know that they are committing a crime. They are passing a check because they have been offered a couple of bucks to do so.”

Coleman is looking at numerous felonies in Ashland City, Spring Hill, and Metro. Police tell News 2 the U.S. Postal Inspector is also taking a look at Coleman.

Sgt. Warren suggests people go to the post office or use electronic banking, instead of placing checks in mailboxes.

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