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INDIANAPOLIS — A former Indianapolis post office manager and two Illinois men are federally charged for conspiracy involving the theft of $1.7 million in checks from the mail, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Wednesday.

James Lancaster, age 40, was the manager of customer service at Indianapolis’ New Augusta Post Office on the city’s northwest side. He has been charged in federal court with conspiracy to commit bank fraud and theft of mail.

A federal grand jury indicted 26-year-old Lavaris Yarbrough, of Calumet City, Illinois, and 30-year-old Jordan McPhearson, of Blue Island, Illinois, with bank fraud and conspiring with Lancaster to commit bank fraud.

Between May of 2020 and June of 2021, Lancaster used his position at the post office to steal checks from the mail, per court documents. Lancaster is accused of giving the checks to McPhearson, sometimes in exchange for cash. McPhearson would fraudulently negotiate the stolen checks and deposit them into an account belonging to someone other than the intended payee, DOJ said. Authorities added that McPhearson sometimes provided stolen checks to Yarbrough, who would fraudulently negotiate them.

In total, Lancaster is accused of stealing more than 270 pieces of mail that contained checks from more than 50 different local businesses. The value of the stolen checks was around $1.7 million, DOJ noted.

If convicted, Lancaster, Yarbrough and McPhearson each face up to 30 years in federal prison for conspiracy to commit bank fraud. Lancaster also faces up to five years in prison for theft of mail.

“Public service is a public trust, and Government officials who violate that trust to defraud and steal from the public—and those who conspire with them—must be held accountable.”  U.S. Attorney Zachary A. Myers said in a press release.