Florida’s Gold Coast Postal Mail Identity Thieves Caught after Peculiar Luxury Purchases
After years of allegedly pilfering local victims’ identities by way of mailbox theft, Carlos Molina, 46, and Catherine Maleck Molina, 43, of Boca Raton, were arrested following the collaborative investigative efforts of a proactive prior victim of the Molina’s identity theft, the Boca Raton Police Department, and the US Postal Inspection Service. The couple now stands accused of federal mail and identity theft charges for crimes taking place all across the Florida “Gold Coast” counties: Palm Beach, Broward, and Miami-Dade.
In a growing national and South Florida crime trend, identity theft, which occurs 15 million times annually nationally, results in the average victims sustaining financial losses of $3,500.00, with law enforcement estimating that a full seven (7%) of American had been victims to date.
Apparently, the Molina family crime spree had already caught the attention of law enforcement previously, with officers occasionally conducting clandestine surveillance on the couple as both drove through suburban Palm Beach County residential areas in their 2011 Land Rover, while Catherine Molina occasionally reached out to steal mail from numerous mailboxes, as Carolos Molina drove. At this point, the Molinas faced future felony charges related to the unlawful tampering or removal of mail, a federal crime, without the victim’s knowledge or consent.
In this instance of identity theft, the perpetrators allegedly used information and other personally identifying communications to perpetrate significant identity theft, with the couple using a victim’s stolen mail in at least one occasion to fraudulently open and use credit cards in the victim’s name. This victim, as well as many other witnesses in the neighborhood, later informed federal and local investigators that sightings of the vehicle and the couple acting suspiciously, with many witnesses blankly reporting to investigation that they had previously observed the same vehicle and couple “stealing people’s mail,” while driving around the neighborhood.
To facilitate the identity theft, most likely in the pursuit of profit, or for a trip to Disney World for the family, as one of the defendants later noted during an arraignment hearing, the defendants would submit postal service change of address forms, which would divert future mail from victims to postal boxes or addresses involved in the mail theft scheme. Moreover, investigators unearthed open source material that documented an illegal application towards credit cards online from the open Wi-Fi in a communal recreation room in the Molina’s apartment complex. Witnesses also report the Molinas spending an inordinate amount of time at this location acting suspiciously, while using computers.
Ultimately, investigators determined that the couple had victimized nearly 250 individual in and around the South Florida area via their identity and mail theft crimes. However, now arrested, the Molinas stand charged with several crimes with more expected in the future from prosecutors. Per Florida law, any act of fraudulent identity theft involving damages of more than five thousand dollars ($5,000) is a felony, as well as any instances of identity theft involving ten or more victims, with the potential of incarceration in these felony cases potentially leading up sentences of forty (40) years of incarceration and criminal fines. Moreover, under Florida law, any false presentation of oneself as another individual violates the state’s larceny criminal statutes.