Police say vacation homes targeted for fraud
HAMPTON - A Russian national suspected of using the mailboxes of vacant summer homes in New Hampshire and Massachusetts was caught using an address in Hampton as part of a widespread fraud ring that's collected more than $100,000 in cash and bogus debit and credit cards, police said on Thursday.
Alekski Shushliannikov, 21, was ordered held on Wednesday after 10th Circuit Court Judge Mark Weaver found probable cause for his arrest on a charge of attempted theft of mail. Hampton police say Shushliannikov has been residing in Boston since last May on a student visa. The case against him broke open on Feb. 10 when a homeowner on Playhouse Circle in Hampton spotted Shushliannikov allegedly stealing his mail.
Police arrested him on Playhouse Circle moments later.
The mail that Shushliannikov allegedly took was addressed to the Hampton home, but none of it was in the homeowner's name. Instead, police found Shushliannikov with mail that contained 17 debit and credit cards in a variety of other names.
Shushliannikov claimed that he was lost and looking for an address on the mailbox when he was questioned by police. Officers grew suspicious of that story once they spotted the debit and credit cards along with a GPS device in his vehicle.
During an interview with police and a U.S. Postal Service inspector, Shushliannikov said that he was part of a larger operation that focused on identity theft and mail theft in the region, according to investigators.
Hampton detectives also learned that U.S. Postal inspection agents have been investigating similar cases in the Cape Cod area of Massachusetts since January. In that case, investigators obtained photographs of a suspect that was later matched to Shushliannikov. A search warrant was executed on Feb. 14 at Shushliannikov's apartment in Boston, where investigators seized hundreds of pre-paid debit and credit cards along with cash and other stolen mail, police said.
Police believe $100,000 in cash and credit was found during the search. Investigators have not yet said how the homes were selected. But some of the vacant residences were also homes for sale, police said.
Shushliannikov is being held at the Rockingham County jail and will not be eligible for release due to an immigration detainer.
Police said the case is also being investigated by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Immigrations Customs Enforcement, the Secret Service, and local police departments in Massachusetts.
Investigators expect the case will eventually be transferred to U.S. District Court in Massachusetts for prosecution.
Anyone with information on this case or similar cases is being asked to contact the Hampton Police Department or the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.