Missing rent check tied to widespread mail theft

Pasco sheriff looking for more victims

PASCO COUNTY - Judy McCoy is one of hundreds of victims around Tampa Bay who's life was disrupted by a suspected mail thief.

"I know times are hard," she said, "but you don't do that to people."

Pasco County Sheriff's Office arrested Brian Chipman this week after deputies caught him stealing mail in Bayonet Point.

For steps on how to clear your name if you're a fraud victim, read the Pasco County Sheriff's Office guide here.

In McCoy's case, investigators said he got ahold of the rent check she sent to her landlord. He removed her landlord's name, filled in his own and signed the back. The forgery worked. While her landlord waited for the rent check to arrive, authorities said Chipman cashed the check.

"We live on a fixed income like a lot of people do and $850 out of her account, that's a lot," said McCoy.

Sgt. Justin Ross of the Pasco sheriff's Economic Crimes Unit said investigators recovered close to 3,000 pieces of mail from about 900 victims and are getting dozens of calls from people worried they are one of them.

"If you are simply just a victim of mail theft, if you haven't noticed anything, we ask that you report that to the postal inspection service," Ross said.

But if you do see fraudulent transactions, report it to the Sheriff's Office, your bank and a credit bureau. To keep your mail safe, authorities suggest you take your outgoing mail right to the post office, especially if it has sensitive information. And don't let your mail sit in that box too long.

McCoy said she's working with her bank to get the rent money back. And she's stopped mailing birthday cards to family members because they never seem to make it.

Chipman is still in jail.

His girlfriend Shelly Johnson was also arrested in connection with the mail thefts. She is out on bond.

"Hopefully he'll get what he deserves and her," McCoy said.

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