Postal inspector Jerry Cucurullo said thieves targeted several northwest Raleigh apartment complexes. They would search for checks, using a screwdriver or crowbar to pry open mailboxes.
Cucurullo said after the thieves got their hands on those checks, they would go immediately to the nearest department store, grocery store, or bank to cash them.
"It is an organized group. They've operated as a group, and they've also operated independently," Cucurullo said.
The loss is estimated to be about $50,000, the postal inspector said.
Checks were not the only items stolen. Monica Lowe had mail-order bedsheets swiped. She feels lucky the thieves did not take more.
"I do feel lucky, because it could have been a check or something that could have given them access to my money," Lowe said.
A tip from witnesses led investigators to Willis Bryant of Erwin and Marcus Hunter of Raleigh. When the two were arrested, police said they had a screwdriver and stolen mail in their car.
David Howell of Raleigh was busted for passing stolen checks, and detectives say they will crack the ring if they can track down Ralph Shields and Jamessa Flippin.
Mail theft is a federal crime that carries a maximum five-year prison term for each offense.