New York man charged with allegedly stealing coronavirus stimulus checks

Stimulus check issued by the IRS to help combat the adverse economic effects of the COVID-19 outbreak By Mallika Kallingal, CNN

(CNN) -- A New York man has been accused of stealing nine Coronavirus stimulus checks.

Feng Chen, 31, of Brooklyn was arrested and charged with stealing mail. New York police officers found Chen had credit cards, checks and nine stimulus payments that did not belong to him, according to a news release from the US Attorney's office for the Eastern District of New York.

NYPD commissioner Dermot Shea said the COVID-19 pandemic is providing criminals an opportunity for criminal scams.

"I applaud our alert detectives and federal partners for interrupting an alleged scheme to victimize New Yorkers by stealing important mail and stimulus money meant to aid them during this unprecedented crisis," Shea said, according to the news release.

Chen's lawyer, Jan Rostal, told CNN she had no comment at this time.

NYPD police officers saw Chen look inside the medical collection bin at a closed medical office early Tuesday morning and then walk to two nearby residential buildings and examine mail left at the door, the criminal complaint said.

Police say he left the second residential building and threw what appeared to be an mail on the sidewalk, the complaint said.

The NYPD officers say when they got out of their vehicle they saw a bulge in Chen's jacket pocket, the compliant said. After searching him, the officers found recovered checks, Economic Impact Payments totaling more than $12,000, credit cards, opened envelopes and letters bearing the names of various individuals and mail addresses, the complaint said.

"For many families, these stimulus checks are a lifeline in these difficult times and anyone who tries to cut that lifeline will face the full weight of the law," Richard Donoghue, US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said in the news release.

Congress has passed trillions of dollars in legislative relief in response to the Coronavirus pandemic. The Treasury Department said more than 88 million people have received stimulus payments so far.

"The Economic Impact Payments are, in many cases, the lifeline needed by these individuals to stay afloat during this crisis. When Mr. Chen stole these checks, he robbed recipients of these much-needed funds. Postal Inspectors and their law enforcement partners have no tolerance for the theft of mail, especially during these unprecedented times," said Philip Bartlett, inspector-in-charge of the United States Postal Inspection Service of the New York Division.

The stimulus package is providing individuals who earn less than $99,000 with up to $1,200, and married couples with up to $2,400. The amount falls as the income goes up.

"We are committed to working with our law enforcement partners to investigate any individual that engages in criminal activity to victimize taxpayers and exploit this national crisis for their own benefit," said J. Russell George, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.

If convicted, Chen could face a maximum of five years in prison.

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