An investigation into stolen mail led detectives to an identity theft scheme allegedly orchestrated by a Spokane woman they say was “kind of relieved” when she was arrested.
“She told us we were good,” Spokane County sheriff’s Detective Dean Meyer said of the suspect, Jacquelyn A. Crawford. “She just began injecting methamphetamine, so in a way she was thankful she was caught.”
Crawford, 40, and Charlene M. Haggard, 42, are accused of stealing mail and prowling cars, then creating bogus checks with pilfered bank account numbers that were passed at stores throughout Spokane County and in North Idaho. The women allegedly used driver’s licenses stolen along with the check information to complete the scheme.
Detectives say the case highlights the need for extra precaution when paying bills through the mail.
“You need to either spend the money for a locking mailbox or use a (post office) box,” Meyer said.
Crawford and Haggard are accused of stealing mail in Cheney, Valleyford, Spangle and Spokane and of passing more than 100 fraudulent checks worth at least $40,000.
A federal grand jury indicted the women this month on one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, four counts of mail theft and five counts related to fraudulent checks passed at more than 35 businesses in Spokane County, including grocery, shoe, book and video stores.
The indictment says the women are responsible for car prowlings and mail thefts that began in January and continued until their arrest April 20.
The women, who police believe are heavy gamblers, are thought to have traded some of the items bought with bad checks for methamphetamine, but “the majority of it was actually in the residence,” Meyer said.
“I don’t know if I have the actual sense to why they were doing it, other than that’s what they lived off of,” Meyer said. “It furnished their houses, the tires on their cars and the food in the fridge.”
Detectives searched Haggard’s home at 5904 N. Regal St. and Crawford’s room at the Apple Tree Inn, 9508 N. Division St., on April 20, seizing checks, receipts and items they believe were purchased with bad checks, according to court documents.
The investigation began when U.S. Postal Inspector Shannon Saylor noticed a correlation between forgery reports and mail theft. In several cases, people who were originally suspects in forgery investigations turned out to be victims in mail theft cases.
A few days later, a woman called the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office and said a check with her account number but another woman’s name had been cashed at the North Division Street Costco. Three blank checks with the same name were located in a pile of stolen mail found on the side of a county road in February.
Investigators spent weeks tracking down victims and pulling surveillance videos of two suspects from targeted stores. Police in Marysville, Wash., identified Crawford and Haggard after Saylor posted photos of the women on a statewide police bulletin.
Haggard, who has eight felony convictions related to forgery, already faces several counts of forgery and identity theft in Thurston County. Haggard has not yet appeared in U.S. District Court on the federal charges.
Crawford, who has 11 felony convictions, including theft and forgery, pleaded innocent to the indictment last week and remains in Spokane County Jail.
Her public defender said in U.S. District Court on Monday that Crawford hopes to enroll in a drug addiction treatment program.