QUEENS — Police arrested three suspects for stealing checks and money orders from a Forest Hills mailbox, amid a recent uptick in similar incidents throughout the city.
Ronny Luzon Domingez, 21, and Escarlet Nunez, 18, of Brooklyn and Angel Aristy, 18, of The Bronx were caught when a local resident called 911 after spotting four people "fishing" envelopes out of a postal box on Austin Street and 75th Road on Jan. 17 shortly around midnight, police said.
The eyewitness told investigators that, while Luzon Domingez and Angel along with a fourth suspect were attempting to get the mail out, Nunez acted as a lookout, according to police and a criminal complaint.
When the eyewitness approached the group, they dropped the mail taken from the mailbox, according to the complaint. One of the suspects then opened the hood of a 2005 Toyota Camry parked nearby and placed something inside before getting inside and driving away, court documents read.
The eyewitness picked up the envelope, which contained a check for $19.51, and later gave it to the police, according to the criminal complaint.
Police officers who arrived at the scene spotted a car fitting the description on Queens Boulevard, two blocks away from where the incident happened, the NYPD said. When the suspects saw the police car, they pulled over and tried to flee, abandoning their vehicle.
“[Police officers] didn’t even have the opportunity to stop their car,” said Capt. Robert Ramos, commanding officer of 112th Precinct, which covers Forest Hills and Rego Park, at a community council meeting Wednesday night.
“The car pulled in and these guys just hopped out and walked in different directions,” Ramos added.
Officers were able to arrest three out of the four suspects, police said.
The fourth suspect remains on the loose, the NYPD said Thursday.
When officers opened the hood of the car, they recovered an envelope containing 10 checks and nine money orders, worth $8,245 in total.
They also recovered a plastic bottle covered with a sticky substance and a shoelace attached to it that was used to "fish" the mail out of the mailbox, police said.
Luzon Domingez, Nunez and Aristy were charged with criminal possession of stolen property, possession of burglar’s tools, petit larceny, unlawful possession of personal identification information and criminal tampering.
Bond has been set at $2,500 for Luzon Domingez, at $15,000 for Aristy and at $20,000 for Nunez. All three are due back in court on Feb. 1, according to the Queens District Attorney’s office.
Attempts to reach Luzon Domingez' attorney were not immediately successful. Aristy’s attorney declined to comment and information about Nunez's attorney was not immediately available.
Officers at the Wednesday meeting distributed fliers among residents warning them about a growing number of mail theft incidents in which thieves are stealing checks from mailboxes, alter amounts and cash them, police said.
The flier suggests dropping off mail as close to the last collection time as possible and use a Uniball 207 gel pen to write checks. The pen, according to the flier, has pigmented ink which adheres to the paper making it difficult to alter the payee and monetary value of the check.