Group allegedly stole, cashed checks throughout L.A. and Orange counties — then posted it on Instagram

A post office in Upland similar to this one, at 333 E Arrow Hwy, Upland, was one targeted by check bandits.
A post office in Upland similar to this one was targeted by check bandits. (Google Maps)

A group of Southern Californians allegedly stole mail and checks from post offices throughout Los Angeles and Orange counties, often hitting several locations in a single day — then turned to social media for help cashing in on their haul.

Authorities are accusing Antonio Hernandez and confederates Ivan Murillo-Hernandez and Alexis Garcia Martinez of ripping off mail from unsuspecting venues with the help of four juveniles, whose names were not released. They then allegedly went on social media to solicit people with bank accounts to help them fraudulently cash the stolen checks.

Check amounts ranged from the low four figures — $1,500, $1,725 and $1,800 — to a whopping $555,099.14 on one light pink business check. Total damages to financial institutions tallied more than $800,000 over a 10-month spree that ended in August 2023, authorities allege.

Sometimes the check crew would even post Instagram reels of their police chases or of them flashing thousands of dollars in cash, asking followers for likes, according to court documents.

A grand injury responded to their attention requests last week with indictments against Hernandez, Murillo-Hernandez and Martinez on felony charges, including bank fraud, conspiracy to commit bank fraud, aggravated identity theft, robbery of a post office and mail theft.

The three are expected back in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on June 20 for a pretrial conference.

Hernandez and Alexis Garcia Martinez’s legal representation could not be reached. The lawyer representing Murillo-Hernandez did not offer a comment.

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The U.S. Postal Inspection Service, a federal agency that protects postal facilities and mail carriers and investigates crimes involving mail, anchored the investigation into the check ring with the help of law enforcement agencies from various counties.

The 22-page indictment accuses the crew of various incidents across Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino County between Nov. 14, 2002 and Aug. 18, 2023.

Many of the post offices they hit either had unlocked doors, back entrances, docks or unmanned areas that enabled the thefts.

On April 4, 2023, crew members allegedly stole mail from an Upland post office via an open back door, according to court documents. Hernandez, who the Postal Inspection Service believes is a member of the Northeast Los Angeles Avenues gang, is alleged to have pushed a postal employee who attempted to take a photo of the license plate of the getaway vehicle, a silver Toyota Camry.

That same day, the indictment alleges, Hernandez, Murillo-Hernandez and three co-conspirators stole mail from an Anaheim post office, then drove to a restaurant parking lot on South State College Boulevard and opened the pilfered mail. Envelopes that contained checks were kept while everything else was discarded into a nearby dumpster.

When an Anaheim Police cruiser pulled near the silver Camry, the crew fled in what became a high-speed chase on the 57 and 60 freeways, according to court documents.

The crew reached Rowland Heights before stopping, abandoning the vehicle and taking off on foot, the indictment alleges, and Hernandez and one other person successfully evaded capture.

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One of the alleged co-conspirators who was caught posted a video that evening of a police car blasting its warning lights, apparently as seen from the passenger-side rearview mirror of the car being pursued. The co-conspirator asked followers to “like” the post, according to court documents.

About a month passed before another duo of co-conspirators stole checks from the docks of a post office in El Segundo on June 8, according to court documents. That day, the indictment alleges, the crew also hit a post office in West Hills. It’s in that theft that the group ripped off a check for $555,099.25 from a West Hills business' Chase Bank account, the indictment says.

The following day, an Instagram story from a co-conspirator was reposted by Hernandez that showed three stolen pink checks from a Chase account, according to the indictment. A caption read, “The lil homie came through with the slips. Thank you, my boy.” Slips, in this reference, is slang for checks.

Despite their brassiness, the gang was also deterred by small measures, authorities say.

They fled a La Mirada post office on March 2, 2023, because a postal employee approached them, the indictment says. Two days later, an attempt to hit a La Cañada Flintridge post office was thwarted by a locked door, according to court documents.

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Once they stole checks, however, they turned to social media for a payday, the indictment alleges. The crew looked for people with long-established bank accounts to cash the checks so they could access their money more quickly, according to court documents.

To persuade third parties to cash the checks, crew members often claimed to be the rightful recipients and offered to share a portion of the proceeds, hiding the fact that the checks had been stolen, the indictment alleges. Some of the crew also sold stolen checks rather than cashing them, according to court documents.

Law enforcement eventually caught up with Hernandez and the one alleged co-conspirator who'd evaded capture on Aug. 18, 2023, raiding the home they shared.

Hernandez published one last Instagram story that day, according to court documents, saying, “I got raided by FBI earlier delete anything you got of [sic] me.”

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.