SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

June 18, 2013

Gloucester mailman accused of stealing debit card and pin, then spending $4,000

By Marjorie Nesin
Staff Writer

---- — GLOUCESTER — A mail carrier accused of stealing a debit card from a business on his mail route, then using the card to withdraw close to $4,000 from the company’s account over the course of a month, was arrested Friday while delivering mail on Sargent Street.

Vuthin Chroek, the accused 30-year-old Lynn man, admitted to the charges of larceny over $250, larceny of the card itself, and fraudulently using the credit card in an interview with detective, police said.

“He stated that he had seen this stuff on TV and just knew what to do,” Detective Thomas Quinn wrote in the report. “He knew it was a debit or credit card after feeling it (in the envelope). He also noticed a separate mailing for the same address from the same bank and knew it to include a pin number.”

The stolen card had been sent to 18 Sargent St. LLC, the Sargent Street company that owns CleanPro as well as storage facilities and other businesses. The company had expected to receive four cards and the related pin numbers to arrive in separate envelopes, but only three cards and three pins were delivered, then bank statements showed that $3,965 had been withdrawn on the fourth card.

Police knew early on that whoever was using the card must have had access to the mail, as the card and its pin number were mailed on separate days.

“The person who took it would need access to the mail in order to match the correct pin to debit card,” Quinn wrote in the report.

Chroek was working as a “floating” mail carrier within the U.S. Postal Service system, filling in for other mail carriers when they take vacation or sick leave and sorting the route’s mail inside the post office, when he allegedly stole the card and pin number, according to police. A check of postal employee records confirmed that Chroek was working the route that includes Sargent Street during the time frame when the card was stolen and had access to the mail sorting, too.

A USPS spokeswoman could not comment on Chroek’s current employment status because the post office’s investigation into the incident is ongoing. But, she confirmed that he has been employed as a carrier and technician out of the Gloucester post office and has worked for the USPS since August 2007.

During the investigation, Detective Quinn and police used Sargent Street LLC’s bank records to track the debit card usage to about 13 withdrawals from ATMs at two 7-Eleven stores, one in Peabody on Chroek’s travel route home, and the other on Maplewood Avenue in Gloucester. Police viewed video surveillance from the two stores and watched as Chroek used the ATMs on dates and times that corresponded with the company’s bank statement withdrawals.

“In each transaction I saw the same male dressed in a postal uniform,” Quinn wrote.

Gloucester’s postmaster identified the man in the video footage as Chroek, and 18 Sargent St. LLC’s business manager recognized Chroek from the video as someone who occasionally delivers mail to the business. Chroek told police after his arrest that he was the man in the video too.

Chroek told police in an interview that he had gambled some of the $3,965 at Foxwood’s Casino, where he lost $1,500 of the money. He told police he spent the remaining money on scratch tickets, food and gasoline.

Police seized $129 in cash from Chroek at booking after his arrest.

During Chroek’s arraignment in Gloucester District Court on Monday, Judge Ellen Flatley determined that he was not indigent and therefore did not qualify for a public defender to represent him, and scheduling his next court date for Aug. 2.

Because Chroek allegedly used the debit card to withdraw money at an ATM in a Peabody 7-Eleven, Gloucester detectives forwarded information about the case to Peabody police for additional charges in that city.

With this arrest, Chroek becomes Gloucester’s third mail carrier to face criminal charges in the past five years.

Charges against one mail carrier, accused of selling Oxycontin along his postal route in 2010, were dismissed when he completed a drug rehabilitation program. That man, Stephen Hale, paid restitution for $10 that he had allegedly stolen from an envelope he was supposed to deliver, bringing the dismissal of a larceny charge.

Gloucester mail carrier Joseph Sauve pleaded guilty in 2011 to a charge of distributing obscene material after he snapped photos of his genitals with a woman’s phone while working his route in 2010.

Marjorie Nesin can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3451, or mnesin@gloucestertimes.com.