A Brooklyn man was arrested on Tuesday for allegedly stealing nine coronavirus relief checks from the mail.
The nine checks totaled more than $12,000, according to a criminal complaint filed Wednesday in Brooklyn Federal Court.
Feng Chen, 31, allegedly was spotted going through the mail at several residential buildings and at a medical office in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, early Tuesday, according to the complaint.
Feng was charged with possession of stolen property and criminal trespass at the state level, and with mail theft at the federal level.
"For many families, these stimulus checks are a lifeline in these difficult times and anyone who tries to cut that lifeline will face the full weight of the law," Richard P. Donoghue, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said in a statement. "This office will vigorously prosecute all those who seek to take advantage of the public health crisis."
The U.S. Postal Inspection Service has issued a warning about the potential theft of stimulus checks and asked law enforcement services to "exercise increased vigilance."
The IRS started mailing out the checks from the historic $2.2 trillion coronavirus stimulus relief package last week.
Approximately 70 million Americans are expected to receive stimulus payments in the mail. Those earning up to $75,000 in adjusted gross income will receive $1,200, with payments declining for those earning up to $99,999. Parents also are scheduled to receive $500 for each qualifying child. Anyone making at least $100,000 is ineligible.
The IRS has rolled out a "Get My Payment" tool to allow people to track the status of their payment and submit direct deposit information to avoid waiting for a paper check.
The public can report suspected coronavirus fraud by calling the National Center for Disaster Fraud hotline (1-866-720-5721) or emailing email@example.com.