Cops find postal service master keys, pile of financial info during North Side traffic stop

Chicago police found two forged Postal Service master keys and a trove of W2 forms, checks, and other financial information during a traffic stop in Albany Park last week, officials said.

Officers pulled Brian Neumann over in the 4700 block of North Bernard around 9:30 p.m. on February 26 because they saw something dangling from his rearview mirror, according to Neumann’s arrest report.

The cops detained Neumann, 31, for not having a valid driver’s license. And that’s when things got interesting.

Brian Neumann and a USPS “arrow key.” | Chicago Police Department; mailmanscott

While impounding Neumann’s car, officers allegedly found a meth-encrusted bong on the driver’s door panel, suspected heroin, a scale, and a stack of financial documents.

On Neumann’s key ring, police allegedly found two forged United Postal Service master keys, known as “arrow keys,” that allow mail carriers—and mail thieves—to access mailboxes. Experts say stolen and forged arrow keys are used by theft crews that steal checks, credit cards, and documents to fuel identity theft operations.

Police also found a forged temporary driver’s license with Neumann’s picture and someone else’s name, another man’s Social Security card, several checks, at least eight W2s, a retirement tax statement, “pages” of bank statements, credit card information, and more, according to Chicago police evidence records.

Prosecutors charged Neumann with felony identity theft, possession of burglary tools, two counts of possessing a controlled substance, and two misdemeanors.

Judge Maryam Ahmad ordered him to pay a $500 bail deposit to be released on electronic monitoring.

Some thieves who use the stolen keys even wear postal service uniform parts as a disguise.

“Basically, the entire U.S. Postal Service is riddled with fraud,” a law enforcement source told CWBChicago last year. And things have only gotten worse since then.

A CWB source said that mail thieves are “part of a larger operation that uses stolen mail to open checking accounts and launder stolen checks,” among other crimes.

In one tricky scheme known as “check washing,” criminals use common chemicals to erase ink on stolen checks, then write the check for a large sum. The fraudulent checks are then either cashed or sold online.

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CWBChicago was created in 2013 by five residents of Wrigleyville and Boystown who had grown disheartened with inaccurate information that was being provided at local Community Policing (CAPS) meetings. Our coverage area has expanded since then to cover Lincoln Park, River North, The Loop, Uptown, and other North Side Areas. But our mission remains unchanged: To provide original public safety reporting with better context and greater detail than mainstream media outlets. Our editorial email address is news@cwbchicago.com