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Police On Long Island Report Spate Of Mailbox Fishing Incidents

LYNBROOK, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) - The check may be in the mail, but that doesn't mean the right person is going to cash it.

Police on Long Island say they've seen a spate of mailbox thefts.

Lynbrook has been hit hard: 36 times since last April, U.S. mail has been illegally fished out of corner mailboxes, and thousands of dollars stolen from innocent victims.

One check was for $84,000, reported CBSN New York's Carolyn Gusoff.

Celebrity Chase Collision in Lynbrook is just steps from a corner mailbox, where for years the business thought nothing of sending off bills this way.

"We just used the local post box at the corner, as we did for 35 years. Very convenient," said manager Steve Wepp.

Not anymore. The bank notified them someone had stolen their ten of their letters, altered their checks and cashed them, to the tune of $15,000.

"They fished out the checks out of the mailbox. They seem to have put some  type of sticky substance on the back of the old lever-type mailbox," Wepp said.

Lynbrook Police say it's happening island-wide, the rudimentary crime costing innocent victims aggravation and money.

"It's all over Nassau. It's all over Suffolk. We're having 5-6 a month, and people are losing large amounts of money," said Chief Brian Paladino. "We call it 'washing' them. It's an acetone base that's put on the ink. It's able to wash the ink off."

Four arrests have been made in connection with the Lynbrook cases, but there are dozens more.

Police say the wide mailbox opening enables thieves to catch the mail with an adhesive.

"So that back part of that mailbox actually has an epoxy on it. And there was some double sided tape that was put right on the lever that came down on the chute. And mail, you know, most people are in a hurry. They'll throw the mail in, it gets caught, and they're able to then, you can literally just reach into the box and take anything that's stuck," said Paladino.

Police say the newer mailboxes with smaller slots helped end a similar spree in Queens, so thieves moved east to Nassau and Suffolk. The boxes are being replaced there too.

CBSN New York's Carolyn Gusoff has reached out to the U.S. Postal Service and is awaiting numbers to show how widespread the problem is.

Until every old-school mailbox is replaced, Lynbrook businesses Gusoff spoke to say they'll be delivering their mail to the hands of their mail carrier.

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