12 arrested in case of stolen money order
Investigators say the suspects tried to pass forged forms taken in post office burglaries
A dozen people were arrested in an islandwide bust yesterday for allegedly cashing thousands of dollars in forged money orders stolen from two U.S. post offices earlier this year.
Eight men and four women were arrested for investigation of first-degree forgery by teams of Honolulu police officers, U.S. postal inspectors and Secret Service agents at locations including Kaneohe, Kalihi, Honolulu, Waikiki and East Oahu.
Investigators would not say whether any of the people arrested were involved in the post office burglaries, but they confirmed that suspects passed or tried to pass the stolen money orders at various post offices, banks and other financial institutions for cash. The amounts forged on the money orders ranged from about $600 to $1,000, the maximum amount allowed by the post office.
The Kaimuki post office was burglarized in January. The Aina Haina post office was burglarized in March. About 80 money orders were stolen from both locations.
Arresting officers said none of the suspects resisted arrest.
No stolen money orders were recovered in yesterday's operation.
Sources close to the investigation said the suspects had taken in about $22,000 worth of forged money orders since January. The money orders were cashed at different post offices across the island.
Postal inspectors said they could not comment on the case, but said they generally do not have a problem with fraudulent money orders because they are as hard to counterfeit as U.S. currency.
"There's watermarks, security threads ... hard to duplicate," said postal inspector Tom Terry. "Throughout the United States there have been problems with counterfeit money orders, but our employees are well trained to spot those.
"In this particular case, these were actual, real money orders that were cashed ... all the result of the burglaries."
In some cases, postal employees said they caught the suspects trying to cash the money orders. On March 3, police arrested a 38-year-old man who allegedly tried cashing a forged money order made out for $1,000.
A clerk recognized the money order as having been forged and confirmed that it was one of a series of USPS money order forms that had been stolen. The suspect was arrested for investigation of first-degree forgery, second-degree attempted theft and detaining stolen property. He was later released pending an investigation. Terry declined to comment on the ongoing investigation because more suspects could be arrested.