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ONLY ON KOLD: Check washing

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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

The crime is called "check washing": Changing the payee's name on a check and stealing thousands of dollars.

Surveillance video shows thieves stealing from business mailboxes.

A savvy business owner had the cameras installed after reports of suspicious break-ins.

He was alerted by a ping on his cell phone and he was able to zoom in and identify his business mailbox was being broken into.

The video shows the car and image of wilfredo Bermudez, the ringleader of a scam that cost victims more than $50,000 dollars.

"He was obtaining business checks, he would wash and alter them and make them payable to himself and deposit them or cash them at the banks they were drawn on."

"Check washing" is the process of erasing details from checks to allow them to be rewritten.

The checks that they obtained could be anywhere from $200 to $8,000. There was a large range of checks they negotiated. In fact, they were often able to retrieve cash immediately and quickly by going to the bank where the check was drawn.

"So they could use their true identification and the check would be made payable to themselves and without question they could go in and cash it."

Postal inspectors say this is yet another lesson on how important it is for all consumers to protect their identity.

"Be very diligent about checking your bank accounts, credit card statements for fraudulent transactions. Your checking and savings to make sure everything is reconciled and all the checks can be accounted for."

Postal inspectors also recommend requesting a free yearly credit check. The suspect in this case, Wilfredo Bermudez, was sentenced to 4 years in federal prison and ordered to pay more than $50,000 dollars in restitution to his victims.

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