crystal methamphetamine. via Wikimedia Commons
Crystal methamphetamine. via Wikimedia Commons

A probationer who had a stolen full-size mailbox in his Corona living room when he was arrested was sentenced Monday to four years behind bars for stealing and cashing other people’s checks.

Paul Wagner was ordered by U.S. District Judge George H. King to pay nearly $3,000 in restitution to Bank of America and serve five years of supervised release following the 48-month term in federal prison.

Wagner, 29, is a repeat offender with a longstanding methamphetamine addiction, King said.

Referring to a long list of convictions and probation violations, the judge said Wagner has shown “rampant disrespect for the law” and is likely to commit further crimes. The stolen checks scheme was part of a “large-scale attempt to victimize people,” King said.

Wagner pleaded guilty in August to one count each of bank fraud and aggravated identity theft.

He was arrested by U.S. Postal Service inspectors in April following an investigation that began last winter. Prosecutors said Wagner forcibly removed a mail box from a Riverside sidewalk and took it back to his house in order to steal checks.

“Once Wagner obtained the checks, he would `wash’ the checks — meaning that he would remove the payee’s name by physically scraping off the ink or using chemicals to erase the ink,” according to court documents.

In one instance, he altered a check to make it payable to an identity theft victim in whose name he had created a fake driver’s license bearing his photo, court papers show.

Along with the drop box, hundreds of stolen checks and check-washing materials were seized.

Wagner has multiple felony convictions for possession of drugs for sale, as well as a conviction for illegal possession of a shotgun, King said.

Along with the drop box, hundreds of stolen checks and check-washing materials were seized.

Wagner has multiple felony convictions for possession of drugs for sale, as well as a conviction for illegal possession of a shotgun, King said.

—City News Service

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