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'Violated, frustrated, ripped off': Chicago Army vet upset about mail 'check washing' scam

Chicago Army vet upset about mail 'check washing' scam
Chicago Army vet upset about mail 'check washing' scam 02:20

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A South Side U.S. Army veteran said he dropped off a check at the post office, only to learn later that it was altered.

Now, he's out nearly $5,000 and his bank hasn't refunded his account. So he turned to CBS 2's Tim McNicholas who has investigated this kind of check fraud for the past year.

From his time in the Army, to the time the Canaryville Veterans Association named him Veteran of the Year, Mickey Brown has met a lot of people.

But he's never met anyone named Layniece Spencer. So imagine the surprise of Mickey and his wife, Susan, when they lost $5,000 due to a check written out to that name.

"It was obviously fraud," he said. "Now I'm living off my savings account. I haven't caught back yet, so now I'm losing money daily. Because we're on Social Security, and it's a pain in the butt."

"That's our bill money and it's gone," said his wife, Susan.

Brown said he did drop off a check in early June at this post office at 41st and Halsted, but that check was only for $230, and it was written out to People's Gas. It turned out someone later altered the dollar amount and recipient name. 

How did he feel about that?

"Violated, frustrated, ripped off," Mickey said.

A spokesperson for Alderman Nicole Lee (11th) confirmed their office has gotten similar complaints from a few other constituents recently. It's called check washing--and it's a crime we've investigated across the Chicago area for the past year.

Last fall, CBS 2 uncovered dozens of victims in the northern suburbs out thousands of dollars.

The United States Postal Service even has a web page with warnings about check washing, and advice like: deposit your mail before the last pickup.

Still, the crimes keep happening.

"I feel victimized, and I'm fed up with it," Susan said.

More than two months later, the Browns say they're still fighting with Fifth Third Bank, trying to get the money refunded.

"We've been waiting a long time and I wanna pay my bills," Susan Brown said.

USPS and Fifth Third Bank both said they are investigating.

Tim has heard from at least two more victims. If you think you've been ripped off, Tim wants to hear from you. You can email him at

UPDATE: Fifth Third Bank issued an update on Friday, Aug. 26, saying Brown's account has been credited and he has been notified. 

"As you can imagine he and his wife were very relieved," a bank spokeswoman wrote.

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