Stolen mail investigation underway in parish

Staff reports
Crystal Sampson

Ascension Parish Chief Deputy Tony Bacala reports that the Ascension Parish Sheriff's Office is conducting a criminal investigation in connection with mail being stolen from residents' mailboxes in the Prairieville area.

One person has been arrested and as the investigation continues detectives anticipate additional arrests as they have discovered there may be a group of nearly ten females and one male involved in these crimes, Bacala said.

Authorities are asking the public to be attentive to suspicious activity that may be occurring near their homes and mailboxes.

The suspects are stealing the mail from mailboxs and taking only the checks that have been put in the mail by the resident to pay bills.  The suspect's are then either altering the check by adding a number to the original amount it was written for or by a process called washing.

The suspects are then cashing the altered checks at various financial institutions (banks, Credit Unions) in Ascension and surrounding parishes using bogus I. D.'s.  The fraudulent I. D.'s that are being used to cash the checks have someone else's name and information on it while the photo is that of the suspect.  In a few of the cases, under investigation, the financial institution questioned the suspect about the check at which time the suspect would immediately flee the scene in a black Tahoe SUV displaying a Tennessee license plate.

Detectives learned that the Tahoe was a rental vehicle out of Texas and was rented under the name of Eddie Matthews. Records also show that he returned the rental to a New Orleans car rental company. Matthews show addresses in Houston, Texas and New Orleans but are they believed to be bogus. Authorities have obtained an I. D. on Matthews and are searching for him.

On November 30, 2011 Livingston Parish authorities contacted Ascension Parish detectives advising that an individual identified as Crystal Vantrice Sampson of New Orleans just attempted to cash a check stolen from an Ascension Parish victim at one of their banks.  During the course of continuing the investigation on Sampson Ascension Parish detectives were successful in connecting her to an additional case where she was captured on a local bank surveillance video cashing another stolen/ altered check that also belonged to an Ascension Parish resident.

On December 1, 2011 Crystal Vantrice Sampson, 29, of 1628 Saint Anthony Street New Orleans, Louisiana was arrested and charged with felony theft by fraud, monetary instrument abuse, identity theft and two counts of misdemeanor theft. She is currently being held on a $55,565 bond set by Judge John Petyvain. After being booked in Ascension Parish, Sampson was transported to Livingston Parish on unrelated charges.

Ascension Parish detectives are attempting to identify a third suspect in connection with the mailbox thefts. This suspect attempted to cash the check at a bank in Ascension Parish although the check was stolen from a resident in Baton Rouge.  When the clerk questioned her about the check she fled the scene leaving the check and bogus I. D. behind. The photo in the bogus I. D. is the suspect that detectives are attempting to identify. In addition, the name Angela Williams appears on the I. D. that the unknown suspect used. Williams is a random named used on the I. D.

Anyone with information is urged to contact the Ascension Parish Sheriff's Office at 225-621-INFO (4636) or Crime Stoppers at 225-344-STOP (7867).

Eddie Matthews