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Angeles County | Community News File / Sierra Madre

6 People Arrested in Theft of Checks From Mailboxes

October 22, 1998

Half a dozen people have been arrested on charges of stealing mail from collection boxes outside post offices along the foothills, authorities said Wednesday.

The suspects targeted boxes in Sierra Madre, Arcadia, San Marino, La Canada Flintridge, as well as locations in Glendale and La Crescenta, said Sierra Madre Police Chief King Davis Jr.

The six people were arrested on suspicion of forging and illegally cashing checks in two separate but overlapping cases, he said.

The scheme netted $40,000 during the last four months. Those arrested were Steve Anthony Cuda, 23, of Los Angeles; Jason Grace, 32, of Studio City; Melody Dart, 32, of Los Angeles; Lisa Maria Lianzo, 28, of Reseda.

Also arrested were alleged ringleaders Jerry Charles "Cadillac Man" Fitzwater, 59; and Frank Edward Cole, 50. They were arrested at a Van Nuys motel.

Authorities on Wednesday displayed a few of the more than 500 pieces of stolen mail, along with checks that had been "washed."

U.S. Postal Service Investigator Pamela Prince said the suspects stole the mail, used chemicals to erase the names and amounts written on personal checks, then deposited them in their own accounts or cashed them at stores.

"It can wreak havoc on its victim," she said. "Victims may not know for weeks, or longer, that their checks have even been stolen until they get late notices from creditors."

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