Rent Check Crime Ring Busted

Three men are in jail for running an organized crime ring to steal rent checks and money orders. The men would take the money orders out of apartment drop boxes and then wash and cash them. Laurie Johnson has more.

The ring used a simple, but creative method for stealing.They would attach string to a sticky mouse trap, then lower the trap down into the drop boxes and fish out money orders.

"I'm not aware of this particular method being used before. But again, I read and all of us do read dozens of reports every day and I sometimes amaze myself at the new and innovative ways that these criminals are able to develop to steal someone else's money."

That's Lt. Robert Manzo of the HPD Financial Crimes Unit. He says the ringleader, Poudoo Randolph, has an extensive criminal history going back 20 years. When officers arrested him, they found 18 money orders on him.

"The money orders were made out payable to the individual apartment complex. And so what this individual would do is use, there are various chemicals that are available where someone can spray this substance on a check or money order and remove the information on the payee and then leave it blank. And sometimes they're very difficult, especially if they're good at this, very difficult to tell that the item had been altered."

Police estimate the theft ring was netting about $30,000 a month from the laundered money orders. They targeted 14 apartment complexes, mostly in west and southwest Houston.

Laurie Johnson. KUHF-Houston Public Radio News.

Bio photo of Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...