LOS ANGELES – A former United States Postal Service (USPS) mail carrier was sentenced today to 15 months in federal prison for her role in a scheme that defrauded banks out of more than $200,000 via the theft of debit cards containing unemployment insurance and other benefits from her mail route and giving them to a co-schemer in exchange for cash payments and gifts.
Toya Toshell Hunter, 45, of South Los Angeles, was sentenced by United States District Judge John F. Walter, who also ordered her to pay $206,212 in restitution.
Hunter pleaded guilty in December 2022 to one count of bank fraud.
From at least August 2015 to May 2020, Hunter schemed to defraud Bank of America by using her position as a USPS mail carrier to steal mail containing California Employment Development Department (EDD) debit cards that contained unemployment insurances benefits. Hunter also stole debit cards containing Economic Impact Payments for federally issued monetary relief because of the COVID-19 pandemic, United States Treasury checks, and other mail containing personal identifying information related to victims assigned to Hunter’s mail route.
Hunter would then give the stolen EDD and other cards to co-defendant Michalea Latise Barksdale, a.k.a. “Miichii Bee,” 34, of Corona, who then activated and fraudulently used them. Hunter provided Barksdale the stolen debit cards in exchange for future payments and gifts.
During the scheme, Hunter helped Barksdale make fraudulent and unauthorized cash withdrawals from 68 separate victims’ accounts and stole approximately $204,812 from Bank of America.
In July 2021, Hunter stole from the mail and fraudulently activated a stolen EIP card belonging to a victim. Hunter then used this card to make fraudulent purchases and cash withdrawals from ATMs and stole approximately $1,400 from Fiserv, a Wisconsin-based financial institution.
“[Hunter]…abused her position by stealing access devices, checks, and personal identifying information from mail assigned to her mail routes,” prosecutors argued in a sentencing memorandum. “These access devices were cards intended for people who were struggling financially: those that were unemployed or impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Barksdale pleaded guilty on March 6 to one count of bank fraud and one count of possession of 15 or more unauthorized access devices. She has agreed to forfeit her ill-gotten gains from the scheme, including 103 EDD debit cards, 78 EIP cards and four iPhones. Barksdale will face up to 40 years in federal prison at her July 10 sentencing hearing.