Two Columbus men charged in theft of hundreds of checks from mail
The discovery of around 1,000 stolen checks during a raid at a Columbus apartment on the border of New Albany has led to federal charges against two men who lived there.
Lante Lewis Hughes, 32, and Damonte Jordan, 21, were charged after a Franklin County SWAT unit executed a search warrant June 11 at their apartment on Longlining Road off Central College Road. The apartment is just west of New Albany's city limits.
Hughes has been charged with bank fraud, conspiracy to commit bank fraud, theft or receipt of stolen mail and unauthorized possession of a U.S. Postal Service key.
Federal authorities charge that Hughes used the key to steal mail from U.S. Postal boxes, then altered business and personal checks and – on some occasions – created counterfeit checks. Hughes is accused of pocketing more than $250,000 from the scheme, federal records show.
Jordan is charged with theft or receipt of stolen mail and aggravated identity theft.
The arrest of Hughes and Jordan is part of a larger investigation of drug trafficking and fraud that originated with the Hilliard Division of Police checking a tip about suspicious activity at a Sparrow Court house in an upscale subdivision.
In March, Hilliard police seized 20 pounds of marijuana and more than $89,000 in cash among many items from the more than $600,000 house on the western, rural edge of the city. No arrests have made yet in connection with that raid, which was previously reported by The Columbus Dispatch.
The 4,226-square-foot Sparrow Court house was rented under the name of Tyler Harris. Hilliard police detective Austin Vogelsang found that the Tyler Harris name was an alias for a woman who is now on probation on federal charges of misusing a Social Security number to rent an apartment, a search warrant shows.
The woman’s boyfriend is awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty last year in U.S. District Court to six charges of false representation of a Social Security number.
During the course of their investigation, Hilliard police found that a person by the name of Kendall Harris had rented the apartment in New Albany where Hughes and Jordan lived.
Hughes admitted to police that the person who rented the apartment under the name of Kendall Harris was the man who is now awaiting sentencing in federal court, a search warrant shows.
Before Hilliard police obtained a search warrant for the apartment, they went through trash discarded from the Sparrow Court house. Among many items, they found a check that a Columbus couple had reported stolen because it never made it to its billing destination. The check was altered and paid out $5,707.87 to a person they didn’t know, court records show.
The U.S. Postal Inspection Service is accusing Hughes of breaking into mailboxes and stealing business and personal checks and money orders. During a search of his room at the apartment, investigators found many checks that had been “whited out," federal records show. A Postal Service key was also found, though Hughes was not a postal employee.
The checks were altered and then deposited via mobile deposit into a number of bank accounts. Hughes has also been recorded using ATMs at a number of locations to make deposits, federal records show.
Jordan is charged with helping in the scheme. The identity theft charge stems from police and federal authorities discovering that Jordan had used a fake name to purchase a 2020 Dodge Durango, federal records show.