Man Sentenced to Two Years in Prison for “Mail Fishing”

prison© RODNAE Productions / Canva

SCRANTON, PA —The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced that Justin William Davis, age 39, of Berwick, Pennsylvania, was sentenced on March 9, 2023, by United States District Court Judge Malachy E. Mannion, to 24 months imprisonment for aggravated identity theft, as engaged in as part of a so-called mail “fishing” scheme.

Individuals involved in the scheme used improvised devices to pull mail from United States Post Office collection boxes in the hope of stealing checks and other valuable instruments.  These items were then “washed” (a chemical fluid is utilized to erase the ink) and re-written to reflect a new payee and a new, higher monetary amount, before being cashed or deposited into the bank accounts of co-conspirators for later withdrawal.

According to United States Attorney Gerard M. Karam, from approximately August 19, 2021 through November 2, 2021, Davis orchestrated the above-described type of “fishing” scheme, utilizing a group of associates whom he paid to go into various banks in Luzerne and Lackawanna County and cash the checks for him.  In all, Davis was involved in the fishing, washing and fraudulent negotiation of approximately 70 checks, and was able–with the assistance of the intermediaries–to successfully negotiate checks totaling $49,148.48.  At his sentencing, Davis was ordered to pay restitution in that amount to the victim banks who reimbursed the persons whose checks were stolen, altered, and fraudulently negotiated.

Because Davis engaged in this new criminal conduct while serving a term of federal supervised release that was imposed in connection with a similar prior criminal case, Judge Mannion also sentenced Davis to a consecutive 24-month term of imprisonment on the supervised release violation, resulting in a total aggregate sentence of 48 months’ imprisonment.

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This case was investigated by the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS).  Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffery St John prosecuted the case.

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