BOCA RATON, Fla. — A possible case of mail fraud involving check washing left a Boca Raton business owner out $20,000 late last year. Now he has a warning for others.
"I've owned this for the past 14 years," Andre Weliky, owner of the 4-95 Boca Car Wash in Boca Raton, said. "If I won the lottery, I'd still work here."
So when $20,000 disappeared out of his account late last year, he said it was devastating.
"October, November and December, they kept cashing these fraudulent checks," Weliky said. "I was just astonished that the bank never caught it. It was the same check number but made out to different names."
Weliky told WPTV he believes his account information could have been stolen through a check or documents sent in the mail.
"I finally had to close my checking account because they just kept on depositing the fraudulent checks," he said.
WPTV reported on a spike in maul fraud in Boca Raton last April, when checks were stolen from a U.S. Postal Service drop box off Palmetto Park Road. Just like in Weliky's case, they were washed.
"I was shocked when I opened the bank statement and there was $9,300 missing," John Haberlein told WPTV in April.
"I always thought by putting them in the blue box, it would be safer than somebody taking it out of my mailbox," Jeff Brader, another victim, said at the time.
According to the Boca Raton Police Department, officers received 39 reported cases of mailbox thefts in 2022, and 27 of those involved stolen checks.
"I definitely lost a lot of sleep over this," Weliky said. "I didn't know if the next day I'd be completely cleared out, if my employees would get paid or my bills would get paid. I was at risk of going out of business."
The USPS said the safest way to mail a check or any documents containing personal information is to physically walk them inside a post office, which Weliky said he'll be doing from here on out.
WPTV has also heard of several other recent check washing incidents in Riviera Beach and Boynton Beach in which checks were stolen out of mailboxes.