Sheriff's Office: 20 people busted in Volusia County mail fraud ring

Twenty people were arrested in a Volusia County check fraud sting Thursday, Sheriff Ben Johnson said.

Sheriff Johnson said the fifteen men and five women would scope out high-end neighborhoods, look for mailboxes with the red flag up, and pounce.

Deputies said members of the group are accused of stealing, forging and cashing the checks, then using the money for methamphetamine.

"Actual loss of money was $35,000, and during the arrest another $50,000 in checks were recovered," Johnson said.

The bust involved seven counties and the men and women accused would go in groups of three to hit the upscale neighborhoods, according to Johnson.

"They'd steal it, they'd have a driver, two would be in the car and the third person would go in to cash the check," Johnson said.

At one point, Johnson said one of them was in such a hurry he left his passport behind.

Investigators said Shawn Drawdy is the ring leader, who admitted he researched the idea for a while, and was inspired by a well-known television show.

"He studied fraud. He got the idea from Dateline. According to him, he saw this on Dateline eight years ago and [is] where he got the idea to steal the checks," Johnson said.

Drawdy and two others are facing federal charges. The rest of the accused are facing local charges.

Deputies have identified more than 80 victims and think there are many more who never reported the crime.

Sheriff Johnson advised people should mail checks from an actual post office.

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