PETALUMA (CBS SF) — Two Los Angeles men who allegedly targeted homes across California, ripping off mail including personal checks in cities spanning the state and in Sonoma County, have been arrested in Petaluma, authorities announced Tuesday.
Petaluma police said 30-year-old Juan Nunez-Alvarado and 32-year-old Anderson Hernandez, both of Los Angeles, were being held in Sonoma County jail on a variety of charges.
Nunez-Alvarado was arrested on suspicion of burglary, forgery, passing fictitious checks, intent to defraud 10 or more persons, and possession of controlled substance.
Hernandez was arrested on suspicion of possessing fictitious checks and intent to defraud 10 or more persons.
Investigators said Petaluma officers were called to a local bank located at 203 South McDowell Boulevard on Monday morning after a customer attempted to cash a doctored check.
As Nunez-Alvarado left the bank, officers detained him as he attempted to enter a vehicle with Hernandez inside. When asked to explain the $1,100 doctored check he attempted to cash, Nunez-Alvarado provided a convoluted explanation. The bank staff found information on the check had been altered and the account holder did not know either subject.
As officers spoke with Hernandez, they noticed a large, open trash bag containing what appeared to be opened mail and initiated a more thorough search. An extensive amount of mail and checks, not in either subject’s name, were found in the bag. Both were then arrested on suspicion of mail theft.
Officers spent hours sorting through the opened mail, as well as business and personal checks, which had already separated by the suspects.
Eventually, investigators determined there were over 200 suspected victims in several cities in 14 counties stretching the length of California. Of the victims identified, 57 were Sonoma County residents.
Of the Sonoma County victims contacted thus far, it is believed the suspects retrieved mail left in U.S. Postal boxes over the prior weekend, when mail is not removed until weekdays.
Petaluma police are working with the U.S. Postal Inspector to notify all other suspected victims outside Sonoma County, who can then contact their respective jurisdictions.