Second Virginia Beach check washing case linked to post office mailbox

Crime Tracker

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — 10 On Your Side’s report earlier this week of a “check washing” scam involving a Virginia Beach woman triggered another viewer to share a similar story.

Check washing happens when someone steals a personal check, uses chemicals to “wash” the payee’s name and the amount, and then inserts a new payee and a much larger amount.

On Tuesday, Natalie Smith explained how she mailed a water bill payment in February at the drive-thru postal box in front of the post office on Thoroughgood Road. A few weeks later, Smith discovered her Dollar Bank check for $78 had been stolen, washed and rewritten for $9,800.

Alice Puett says she mailed a Navy Federal Credit Union check for $50 at the same outdoor drop box in late October. Soon afterward, she and her husband discovered someone had intercepted the check, washed it and rewrote it for $9,700.

“When I saw that it happened to [Smith] at the same drop box, it really raised concern to me about what’s going on at the post office,” Puett said.

It took two weeks of wondering and worrying before the Puetts found out they weren’t on the hook for the money. Smith is hoping she’ll get the same news from her bank.

When you check the boxes and compare the two incidents, you’ll find the same scheme, almost the same amount (just under the $10,000 threshold that would have triggered a notification to the Internal Revenue Service), different banks, but the same starting point — a mailbox the postal inspector described this week as “secure and functioning properly.”

We asked Postal Inspector Michael Romano what investigation was done regarding Alice Puett’s case in October, and the similarities with Natalie Smith’s case in February.

Romano says both cases are part of the same ongoing investigation, with no further comment.

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