COPLEY: Reniece Tatum unlocked the mailbox outside her townhouse every day looking for a check from Chipotle.

She planned to spend the $414 — money raised for her fledging nonprofit during a September fundraiser at the Mexican chain’s Highland Square restaurant — on a replacement wig for a teenager whose hair hadn’t yet grown back after her cancer went into remission.

But the check never arrived.

Copley police now say the U.S. postal carrier who should have delivered the check to Tatum stole it instead.

On Thursday, police charged Shanae Bingham, 23, of Akron, with felony theft. Bingham, who was suspended this week from her post office job, made plans to turn herself in to authorities next week, police said.

“It’s just the weirdest thing,” Tatum said Thursday. “When I found out someone had cashed the check, I couldn’t figure out how they got into my locked mailbox,” she said. “I never suspected it was the mail woman.”

Copley Detective Mike Yovanno said Bingham was delivering mail in Tatum’s neighborhood on the same day the Chipotle check written to Tatum’s nonprofit — Dream a Wig — ended up in Bingham’s bank account.

Authorities said bank and phone records show Bingham apparently photographed the check with her mobile phone and then used a mobile app to deposit the money into her PNC account.

Bingham could not be reached Thursday for comment. It wasn’t known whether she is being represented yet by an attorney.

Police continue to investigate. Earlier this week, they sent a subpoena to PNC seeking all activity on Bingham’s bank accounts to see if she may have pilfered more mail and deposited checks that belonged to others along her route.

Yovanno said there’s no foolproof way for consumers to prevent thieves from stealing and electronically depositing their checks. But if it happens, he said, the thief will leave behind a digital trail police and bank officials can follow to the culprit.

Tatum — a cosmetologist at La Rue’s House of Beauty, which was founded by her grandmother on Storer Avenue about 45 years ago — said she grew tired of waiting for the Chipotle check and ultimately spent her own money to make the replacement wig for the girl.

“Hair is everything to a woman — and to a girl,” she said. “I can’t imagine stealing money from something like that.”

Tatum said she launched Dream A Wig earlier this year after delivering meals to children at Akron Children’s Hospital.

“I would see these girls with hair and then with no hair and I just couldn’t imagine how they were feeling,” Tatum said.

Tatum, who volunteers at Akron Children’s weekly, said she lets the girls guide what their own wigs will look like. Tatum orders the hair and then makes the wigs herself using a sewing machine, tailoring the measurements of each girl’s head.

After they receive a wig, the girls return to La Rue’s every two weeks for wig maintenance, a scalp treatment to help their own hair re-grow and a good talk, Tatum said.

Tatum said she learned this week that Chipotle plans to cut a replacement check to Dream A Wig, but only after the restaurant chain gets its money back from PNC. Chipotle said that should happen sometime in the next 120 days, Tatum said.

Hoping to ensure the check’s safe arrival this time, Tatum said she’s considering having it delivered to her post office box instead of her mail box.

But if a thief is working inside the post office, she concluded, it might not make any difference.

Amanda Garrett can be reached at 330-996-3725 or agarrett@thebeaconjournal.com.