Illegal Scheme to Steal Stimulus Checks from Mail to Sell Exposed by Police

An Illinois resident was charged Tuesday with conspiring to steal stimulus checks from the mail, according to information from the U.S. Department of Justice.

Akeem Kosoko, 26, allegedly stole direct payments provided as part of the CARES Act, a COVID-19 economic stimulus package. Under the CARES Act, eligible Americans were sent $1,200 stimulus checks. Kosoko allegedly worked together with postal carriers, including his brother Ahmed Kosoko, to take the checks.

According to a grand jury indictment handed down in November 2020, Ahmed Kosoko "stole United States mail containing financial instruments, and proved the stolen mail to AKEEM KOSOKO, in exchange for payment or the promise of payments."

Akeem Kosoko allegedly altered the checks, including changing the names of the intended recipients of the checks. Akeem Kosoko then deposited the checks into the accounts of other account holders, withdrawing the funds later.

Akeem Kosoko also allegedly sold the stolen checks to other individuals. In May 2020, Akeem Kosoko allegedly sold at least $6,000 worth of stolen checks to people in the Northern District of Illinois.

Akeem Kosoko was indicted Monday in a Chicago federal court with one count of conspiracy to steal mail and government funds, three counts of embezzlement of government property and three counts of receipt of stolen mail. No arraignment date has been set.

Ahmed Kosoko had been previously charged by federal authorities in November 2020 with one count of conspiracy to steal mail and government funds.

Newsweek reached out to the U.S. Department of Justice for comment.

mail theft stimulus checks illinois
An Illinois man was charged Tuesday with stealing economic stimulus checks from the mail and selling them to other people. iStock/Getty

Paper stimulus checks sent through the mail became a target for thieves after they began to be delivered nationwide. According to the Federal Trade Commission, scammers took more than $77 million dollars in COVID-19 related fraud during the first 6 months of 2020.

In April 2020, Brooklyn resident Feng Chen was arrested for allegedly stealing, among other items of mail, 9 economic stimulus payments. Police officers observed Chen examining mail left in collection receptacles and in front of the doors of local businesses and residential buildings. Chen placed the mail on the sidewalk when he saw the officers. After allegedly noticing a bulge in Chen's jacket, officers performed a search.

Chen was allegedly discovered to be carrying more than $12,000 in economic stimulus checks, credit cards and opened pieces of mail addressed to other individuals. Officers confirmed with the addressees of two of the stimulus checks that Chen did not have permission to access their mail.

"When Mr. Chen stole these checks, he robbed recipients of these much needed funds," said Philip R. Bartlett, Inspector in Charge of the New York Division of the United States Postal Inspection Service in an April 2020 statement. "Postal Inspectors and their law enforcement partners have no tolerance for the theft of mail, especially during these unprecedented times."