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Police recover $121K in checks in mail theft case
Gainesville couple charged in case that covered several counties, including Forsyth, cities in region

HALL COUNTY - A married couple from Gainesville is accused of stealing mail and checks from at least seven counties, according to police.

Amanda Starr Bryant, 31, and husband Benjamin Russell Smith, 40, were charged with identity theft. They were booked Wednesday into the Hall County Jail, where they remain.

Oakwood Police Sgt. Danny Sridej said the case began Wednesday when a victim reported a $10 check being changed to $419.90 and presented at a Wal-Mart.

Around noon Wednesday, police found Bryant and Smith at a Flowery Branch McDonald’s “occupying a rented U-Haul van,” according to a news release.

“They were setting up a hotel room inside the U-Haul van,” Sridej said.

After obtaining a search warrant for the van, investigators discovered stolen mail, credit cards, checks, gift cards and other items.

“The total amount of checks for victims who live outside of Hall County was at least $121,259.15 not including multiple checks recovered for Hall County victims,” Sridej said.

The amount from Hall County is still unavailable.

Sridej said the pair allegedly washed the checks with bleach or brake fluid, which would dissolve the ink on the checks. Investigators said they believe Smith and Bryant used the checks for gift cards and merchandise.

The alleged mail theft came from Hall, Barrow, Cherokee, Forsyth, Jackson, Gwinnett and Habersham counties. Mail was also reportedly taken from businesses and homes in Alto, Auburn, Ball Ground, Braselton, Clarkesville, Commerce, Cumming, Flowery Branch, Gainesville, Hoschton, Jefferson, Lawrenceville, Mount Airy, Pendergrass, Suwanee and Winder.

Anyone who may have had checks or other financial identification documents stolen between May and August should contact Oakwood Police at 770-534-2364 or the Hall County Sheriff’s Office investigator at 770-297-4686.