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Police: Stolen rent checks a growing crime

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(Source: CBS 5 News) The Phoenix Police Department reports an increase in the number of apartment complexes targeted by thieves looking for rent checks around the first of each month. (Source: CBS 5 News) The Phoenix Police Department reports an increase in the number of apartment complexes targeted by thieves looking for rent checks around the first of each month.
MESA, AZ (CBS5) -

The Phoenix Police Department reports an increase in the number of apartment complexes targeted by thieves looking for rent checks around the first of each month.

Since a CBS 5 News viewer clicked our "Action Button," reporters have been investigating a growing number of complaints about renters who claim checks and money orders for their rent were stolen out of the drop box of their apartment complexes. To make matters worse, the apartment management is claiming that it's the tenants' responsibility to make up for the stolen money.

The Rancho Palos Verdes apartments off Gilbert and University in Mesa were targeted by a thief in September. It turns out it was the same thief who targeted the Brookstone at the Foothills complex off Baseline and 44th Street in south Phoenix.

The money orders made out to the apartments were doctored and made out to the same individual.

CBS 5 News is not naming suspect at the request of the Phoenix Police Department because of its ongoing investigation.

Renter Denise Nowhitney said she is on the verge of being evicted because the apartment management is insistent she cover the stolen funds.

"They're really not working with me. They're telling me it's my responsibility because of the drop box. I put it at my own risk if I put in money in there," said Nowhitney.

Phoenix has a landlord-tenant counseling service program that is free and open to anyone in the state.

"Technically, yes, a landlord or agent can be held responsible if that check or money order is lost or stolen, but it is always based on proof," said Alma Lara with the city of Phoenix.

A spokesman with the Phoenix Police Department told CBS 5 News officers are seeing an increase in this type of theft, especially in north Phoenix. After receiving several cases, the Document Crimes Bureau asked for officers to scout out the locations to see what could be causing these types of crimes.

Many apartments are forgoing a drop box altogether because of the growing trend of rent check thefts.

Copyright 2012 CBS 5 (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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