Centreville's Sully Estates community is a quiet neighborhood with extremely expensive homes. And that's the very area that police believe a Manassas woman targeted for a series of mail thefts.
As a result, on March 22, Fairfax County police arrested Alesha Janelle Saunders, 23, of 7585 Margate Court, Apt. 203. They charged her with three counts each of forgery and uttering (passing off phony checks as valid) and one count of obtaining money through false pretenses.
Two days later, she was also charged with felony hit-and-run in connection with a May 14, 2003 incident in which a Chantilly male sustained minor injuries.
Police spokesman Bud Walker said the mail thefts occurred over "the last couple of months" and the amount of loss is estimated at $10,000. But, added police spokesman Jeff Gossett: "It could be higher as more victims come forward."
HE SAID both county police and the U.S. Postal Service conducted a joint investigation into the matter. "[Saunders] was [allegedly] stealing mail from Chandley Farm Circle — removing outgoing mail from mailboxes," said Gossett. "She was [reportedly] taking the checks [from the envelopes], creating a bank account and depositing the checks into it."
He said one of these checks was drawn on a Bank of America account at this bank's Centreville branch. "She would [allegedly] alter the payee and make the checks payable to the person whose name was on the fraudulent account," explained Gossett.
He said this account had a fraudulent name and was at a different Centreville bank. He said Saunders then allegedly used the bank's general withdrawal slips to later withdraw this money.
Police Det. Bob Athing presented further details of the case against her in a March 24 affidavit for a search warrant for Saunders' bank account at the Wachovia Bank at 11781 Lee Jackson Memorial Highway in Fairfax. Athing is a member of the police department's Financial Crimes Section.
He wrote that, on March 22, Saunders was extradited from Charles County on Fairfax County's charges and placed into custody here. She's being held in the Adult Detention Center on $90,000 bond.
"Saunders was captured on Bank of America surveillance video conducting a fraudulent transaction which occurred on March 1," wrote Athing. He then noted that, when the Charles County Sheriff's Office relinquished her pocketbook to him, inside it was a bank-account statement from Wachovia Bank.
"IT IS [my] experience that persons who commit fraud will often deposit the proceeds of ill-gotten gains into their personal bank accounts," wrote the detective. He stated that he wanted to search Saunders' Wachovia Bank account for "any U.S. currency deposited on or about March 1 — which is the same day Saunders [allegedly] defrauded the Bank of America of $3,834."
He also hoped to find a deposit ticket for any transaction posting to that account on or about that date. And he wanted to obtain the bank's surveillance tape for that day, as well.
Furthermore, said Gossett, "The detective is looking for people with additional information about the case or who believe they may have been a victim [of mail theft]." Call Athing at 703-246-7804 or Postal Inspector John Camps at 703-280-7219.
As for the hit-and-run, Sgt. Wallace Bouldin with the Virginia State Police said the incident occurred last May on I-66 at Route 123. He said it was a "personal-injury, hit-and-run," but he had no further information about the victim, except that he's a Chantilly resident. Saunders has a May 10 court date for the financial-crime charges and a June 14 court date for the felony hit-and-run.