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Shaker Heights men accused in $2.7 million mail, fraud, and car theft ring

Shaker Heights men accused in major mail and car theft ring
Posted at 6:23 PM, Jun 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-01 19:21:02-04

CLEVELAND — Federal investigators say it was a criminal ring full of mail theft, armed robbery, and stolen expensive cars. Now court documents name four Shaker Heights men who investigators said are behind it all.

Court records claim the beginning of the end for the men came shortly after an armed robbery of a mail carrier on Stoer Rd. back in January.

“Officers just happened to be at the right place at the right time,” said Detective Kevin Ishler from the Shaker Heights Police Department. He told us patrol officers noticed the black vehicle involved in that robbery.

“There’s so much material that these officers have to remember and that are coming across the radio as just an informational bulletin,” said Ishler. “You never know where that vehicle is going to end up.”

FOUR MEN NAMED IN AFFIDAVIT

The affidavit filed in U.S. District Court claims Devin Rice, Jaylen Harris, Lavelle Jones and Hakin Benjamin were involved in the elaborate ring of crime.

Documents show Shaker Police found a collection box key, or what’s called an “Arrow Key,” on Rice.

Officers got a warrant to search the car in question and said they found various bank deposit slips, checks and even a debit card “that would have been loaded with unemployment funds from the state of California.”

'LARGE AMOUNTS OF STOLEN MAIL'

Court records reveal officers got a warrant to search a house on Rolliston Road, where some of the men lived. Investigators said they found “large amounts of stolen mail and checks…and sheets of check paper used to print checks.”

Court documents show that rice “admitted that he stole mail and altered checks…(and) printed checks… to deposit at…banks and then withdraw the money.”

Investigators say some of the men would use social media to move the checks and even stolen cars, and that they found pictures and video on some of their phones seized during their searches.

EXPENSIVE 'STOLEN' CARS AND TRUCKS

They also noticed a Range Rover vehicle parked in front of the house on Rolliston Road, and police said that was stolen from the Fiat of Strongsville dealership. Plus, they saw a new truck near the back of the house.

“While officers were down by the roadway, the vehicle did flee from the residence across front yards in the snow,” said Ishler. He told us they didn’t chase the truck, but they found it a couple of days later, and that it was stolen.

“You never know the dangers out there investigating on-scene stuff that these patrol officers have to put themselves out (in),” said Ishler.

Upon further investigation, police said they found numerous other stolen expensive cars valued from $50,000 - $100,000 each. Some cars were stolen from Michigan and sold in Cleveland. Police said a “Pro Pad” was used to clone key fobs for the vehicles.

The court records claim the total amount stolen between the checks, fraud and the cars is $2.7 million.

INVESTIGATORS PURSUING MYRIAD OF CHARGES

Officers said they found a handgun that was altered so it would fire like an automatic weapon.

Authorities said they have enough to pursue charges of conspiracy, stolen cars, theft of U.S. mail, robbery, and a gun charge.

“It’s great to be able to identify individuals responsible for this and to bring accountability to them,” said Ishler, who credited numerous agencies involved in the investigation.

We contacted the attorneys for those who are accused. So far, no comment on the case.

Investigators say the four men could be just the tip of the iceberg with a ring that spans several states.

Here's the official comment from US Postal Inspection Service:

"The recently announced federal charges connected to mail theft in the Cleveland area serves as a great example of the coordination between the US Postal Inspection Service and our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners to preserve the safety, security, and integrity of the nation’s mail system from criminal activity.

As the nation’s oldest federal law enforcement agency, the Postal Inspection Service has a long, proud, and successful history of fighting criminals who misuse our nation’s postal system.

If anyone has information related to mail theft offenses, we ask them to call the US Postal Inspection Service at 1-877-876-2455 (say “law enforcement”). All information will be kept strictly confidential.

Thank you.

Ian P. Ortega, Postal Inspector — U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Cleveland Field Office

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