For two years, residents at the LeFrak City apartment complex in Queens wondered who was cashing their rent checks. They’d slip the envelopes into the outgoing mail slot and see the charge on their accounts a few days later. Yet the leasing company told them the checks never arrived.
On Tuesday, the Queens County District Attorney’s office announced that authorities had solved the mystery: A 45-year-old resident named Olawale Akinnawonu had been busting into the mailboxes and stealing money and identities, raking in more than $100,000.
According to prosecutors’ allegation in the indictment, Akinnawonu–who was arraigned on charges including money laundering, identity theft, and grand larceny–ran a brazen scheme. And much of it was caught on camera.
The NYPD decided to install security cameras throughout the complex’s mail areas after officers noticed a pattern of complaints coming from LeFrak tenants. The footage, prosecutors say, showed how Akinnawonu pilfered the rent checks from the outgoing mailbox: he fished them out with a stick-like tool he’d fashioned for the task.
He then allegedly deposited those check into multiple bank accounts and unused credit cards that he opened under the names of his neighbors. From that point, he’d withdraw the cash, transfer the money into his personal account, or have credit card companies give him a check for the overpayment.
Akinnawonu struck “dozens of former and current residents,” according to prosecutors. Around 12,000 people live in the 20-building development just off the Long Island Expressway.
In a statement, Queens D.A. Richard Brown noted that law enforcement may not have identified all of Akinnawonu’s victims. He suggested that LeFrak residents get a credit report to see if they had any unauthorized credit card accounts in their name.
If convicted, Akinnawonu faces up to 15 years in prison.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 9, 2013