FORT WALTON BEACH, Fla. – A DeFuniak Springs man has been sentenced to prison for stealing checks from mailboxes in the Fort Walton Beach area, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Florida (USAO) has announced.
Charlie James Rhodes, 43, was sentenced to 45 months in federal prison after previously pleading guilty to charges of theft of mail, bank fraud, and aggravated identity theft. Jason R. Coody, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Florida, announced the sentence.
“Frauds, such as this one, which target the elderly and compromise essential institutions, such as the mail and our banking system, are serious federal offenses and violators will be prosecuted,” said Coody.
“With the assistance of our dedicated law enforcement partners, we are committed to investigating and prosecuting those who engage in acts of fraud.”
Court documents reflect that between March 2019 and July 2019, Rhodes drove around neighborhoods in the Fort Walton Beach area looking for raised mailbox flags, indicating the presence of outgoing mail.
Reportedly, Rhodes would then steal the mail, looking for personal checks from the homeowner to various payees. Once found, prosecutors said he would wash the checks, make himself or one of his aliases the payee, and increase the payment amount.
Finally, the USAO said he would take the checks to local banks and cash them. Using this scheme, he stole over 30 checks for a loss amount of more than $35,000.
According to the USAO, the crime primarily victimized elderly members of the community but also many of the local banks. As a result, the residents bore the time and expense of sorting out the fraud and the impact of the misdirected funds, and the local banks ultimately bore the financial loss.
From 2019 to 2022, Rhodes served time in Alabama for a similar scheme. When Rhodes was arrested in Enterprise, Alabama, in 2019, he had several checks in his vehicle waiting to be cashed, some from residents of Okaloosa County, the USAO said.
“Identity theft and fraud are a continuing problem in our society,” said Okaloosa County Sheriff Eric Aden.
“I commend the hard work of our investigators to hold these individuals accountable, and our department will continue to aggressively pursue all who engage in this type of criminal activity.”
Rhodes’s prison sentence will be followed by three years of supervised release. The court also ordered Rhodes to pay $6,727 in restitution.
“The United States Postal Inspection Service will aggressively investigate those who target our most vulnerable citizens and defraud them of their hard-earned money,” said Miami Division Postal Inspector in Charge Juan A. Vargas.
“This sentence is a testament of the dedication and collaborative efforts with all law enforcement partners involved.”
This case was investigated by the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office and the United States Postal Inspection Service. Assistant United States Attorney Walter Narramore prosecuted the case.
The United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Florida is one of 94 offices that serve as the nation’s principal litigators under the direction of the Attorney General. To access available public court documents online, please visit the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida website. For more information about the United States Attorney’s Office, Northern District of Florida, visit http://www.justice.gov/usao/fln/index.html.