Gang Using Homeless to Scam Des Moines Businesses

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- Authorities say a big city gang is targeting Des Moines businesses, and using the homeless to take the fall for the crime.

Glen Mikel of G&S Towing does a lot to protect his business. But he never thought he'd get ripped off because of his mailbox.  "I grew up with a rural mailbox and the mail got put in there, you put mail in, and it got to where it was going and that was the end of story. Not anymore."

Mikel is the victim of a nationwide scheme where big city gang members, usually the bloods, steal checks out of mailboxes; counterfeit those checks; then recruit area homeless to cash them for a percentage of the stolen funds.

"They'll go down to a shelter, say the shelter in downtown Des Moines, and recruit a homeless guy to cash a check and use their valid identification," says US Postal Inspector Jim O'Hara,  "They use that, put that name on the check, that address, etc, the homeless guy goes inside, cashes the check and gets somewhere between one and two hundred dollars for each time he or she does it."

Because the homeless use their own ID’s, they’re usually the ones to serve the time for the crime.

O’Hara says so far this scheme has netted about $50,000 in the past couple of months.  And catching these guys, he says, will be difficult if not impossible. So it's up to business owners to protect themselves by using locked mailboxes or post office boxes.

That's what Mikel does now, "I worked all my life to get to where I'm at and build a nice business and people come along and just have to steal from you.  You know if they put as much effort into working as they did stealing they'd be somewhere in life.  It's pathetic."

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