Man who stole mail to fuel cocaine habit sentenced to federal prison

Mail theft sentence

GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. (WZZM) - A Kent County man with a history of stealing mail to support a cocaine addiction was sentenced to five years in federal prison for thefts in the Walker area.

Gregory Warren Wade has a long history of financial fraud and substance abuse, which includes three alcohol-related convictions. The most recent mail thefts are a result of his addiction to cocaine, court records show.

In addition to prison, U.S. District Court Judge Robert J. Jonker this week ordered Wade to pay more than $4,400 in restitution.

Wade pilfered outgoing mail in the Walker area in search of checks, which he then doctored and cashed at Grand Rapids banks.

He targeted mail boxes with the red flag in the upright position, indicating there was outgoing mail, according to federal court documents.

It’s not his first time.  Wade, 43, was convicted in two earlier cases and sent to federal prison.

Wade pleaded guilty in July to possession of stolen mail and bank fraud, a 30-year offense. In exchange, six other charges were dismissed.  

“Mr. Wade looks back on his pattern of bank fraud crimes with embarrassment and remorse,’’ defense attorney Anna R. Rapa wrote in a sentencing memorandum. “His is a familiar story: drug addiction leading to financial crimes to support a habit.’’

Authorities say he used chemicals to remove the original ink, then altered and cashed the checks at the victim’s bank for larger amounts.

The first case, in 2002, resulted in a three-year prison term. Federal investigators at the time said more than 25 people were victimized.

He was on probation when he was arrested in 2006 for mail thefts in Kentwood. He was sentenced to 2½ years in that case.  He’s been in and out of prison since then for various violations, including use of cocaine.

An earlier sentencing memorandum indicated that Wade was a cocaine user and stole mail to support his addiction.

Wade was released from federal custody in December, 2015. Just 16 months after his release, he was stealing mail in Walker, federal court documents show.

Walker police in early May received a complaint of mail theft and bank fraud. Other cases surfaced. In one case, a $173.72 check made out to a utility company was stolen from a mailbox and altered. The amount was changed to $873.72 with Wade listed as the payee, court records show. It was cashed at a Huntington Bank branch in downtown Grand Rapids.

Federal investigators obtained bank surveillance video showing a man, later identified as Wade, with the check.

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