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New York City man stole $12,000 worth of coronavirus stimulus checks from mailboxes

The man has been charged with theft and faces up to five years in prison.

NEW YORK — A New York City man was arrested after stealing nine stimulus payment checks worth $12,000 from mailboxes in Brooklyn.

Police arrested 31-year-old Feng Chen on Tuesday after officers saw him looking into a medical collection bin and mailboxes in Brooklyn's Sunset Park neighborhood, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office Eastern District of New York.

When the police searched Chen, prosecutors said they found "checks, Economic Impact Payments totaling more than $12,000, credit cards, opened envelopes and letters bearing the names of various individuals and mail addresses."

Chen was charged with theft and faces up to five years in prison.

"For many families, these stimulus checks are a lifeline in these difficult times and anyone who tries to cut that lifeline will face the full weight of the law,” said United States Attorney Richard P. Donoghue in a statement. “This Office will vigorously prosecute all those who seek to take advantage of the public health crisis.”

RELATED: More than 88 million stimulus payments have already been distributed, IRS says

The payments are part of the $2.2 trillion rescue package signed into law by President Donald Trump aimed at combating the economic ravages of the coronavirus pandemic. Americans earning up to $75,000 in adjusted gross income will receive a $1,200 economic impact payment, plus an additional $500 per child.

The easiest way to know whether a person's payment has arrived is to check their bank account, but the IRS "Get My Payment" tool can also help track when it's supposed to be deposited.

RELATED: When will stimulus checks be mailed? What to know if you're still waiting

The U.S. Postal Inspection Service has issued warnings about potential stimulus payment check scams and thefts.

The public is encouraged to report suspected fraud related to COVID-19 by calling the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) hotline (1-866-720-5721) or to the NCDF e-mail address disaster@leo.gov.