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Former Post Office Manager and Two Illinois Men Federally Charged for Conspiracy Involving Theft of $1.7 Million in Checks from the Mail

March 9, 2022

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INDIANAPOLIS – James Lancaster, 40, of Indianapolis, the former manager of customer service at Indianapolis’ New Augusta Post Office, has been charged in federal court with conspiracy to commit bank fraud and theft of mail. The charges against Lancaster were unsealed late yesterday. On March 1, 2022, a federal grand jury in the Southern District of Indiana returned an indictment charging Lavaris Yarbrough, 26, of Calumet City, Illinois, and Jordan McPhearson, 30, of Blue Island, Illinois, with bank fraud and conspiring with Lancaster to commit bank fraud.

According to court documents, between May 11, 2020, and June 23, 2021, Lancaster used his position at the Post Office to steal checks from the mail. Lancaster gave the stolen checks to McPhearson, sometimes receiving cash in exchange. McPhearson fraudulently negotiate the stolen checks, depositing them into an account belonging to someone other than the intended payee. Occasionally, McPhearson provide stolen checks to Yarbrough who fraudulently negotiate them.

Throughout the course of the conspiracy, Lancaster stole more than 270 pieces of U.S. mail from the New August Post Office. This mail contained checks from more than 50 different local businesses. In total, the value of the stolen checks was around $1.7 million.

If convicted, Lancaster, Yarbrough and McPhearson each face up to 30 years in federal prison for conspiracy to commit bank fraud.  Lancaster also faces up to 5 years in prison for theft of mail. A federal district judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

“Public service is a public trust, and Government officials who violate that trust to defraud and steal from the public—and those who conspire with them—must be held accountable.”  said U.S. Attorney Zachary A. Myers. “Our office will continue to work closely with the Postal Service and Postal Inspection Service to investigate and prosecute mail theft schemes.”

Special Agent-in-Charge Andre Martin, Central Area Field Office, U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General said, “Today’s charges represent our commitment to work with our law enforcement partners to maintain the integrity and trust in the U.S. Mail. The majority of postal employees are hard-working public servants dedicated to moving mail to its proper destination. The USPS OIG, along with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, remain committed to safeguarding the integrity of the U.S. Mail and ensuring the accountability and integrity of U.S. Postal Service employees.”

The U.S. Postal Service – Office of Inspector General is investigating the case. The U.S. Postal Inspection Service also provided valuable assistance.

An indictment or information are merely allegations, and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

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