U.S. Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner and Deputy Chief Postal Inspector for Western Field Operations Dr. Gregory Campbell Jr. announced the results to date of Operation Broken Mailbox, an ongoing effort involving a surge of postal inspectors and analysts working with local law enforcement partners to investigate and prosecute stolen mail offenses.
Operation Mailbox was initiated following postal customer complaints about mail thieves who were attacking collection boxes via "fishing" techniques, prying open boxes in post office lobbies, breaking into postal delivery trucks, and counterfeiting postal keys to compromise collection boxes and Neighborhood Delivery Centralized Box Units (NDCBUs). The Postal Inspection Service deployed postal inspectors and analysts with strong mail theft investigation backgrounds from around the country to the Eastern District of California beginning in April 2013 to work with postal inspectors already assigned to Sacramento, Fresno, and Bakersfield.
In less than a year, the teams completed investigations leading to federal indictments against 21 defendants. Nine of these defendants have already been sentenced, and six more are awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty. In addition, at least six more persons have been charged by District Attorneys in Kern County and Sacramento County. Operation Broken Mailbox is still underway, and more prosecutions are anticipated.
"Protecting the security of the U.S. Mails, and protecting mail customers from the loss of valuable items and personal identity information, is an important responsibility of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and of this office," said U.S. Attorney Wagner. "I appreciate the responsiveness the Postal Inspection Service has shown in devoting resources to address this problem in the Central Valley. I also want to thank our local law enforcement partners for working so effectively with us in this effort."
Deputy Chief Postal Inspector Campbell stated: "We work closely with the U.S. Attorney's Office and our partners in law enforcement to arrest and prosecute those who steal mail for criminal gain. A primary goal of the Postal Inspection Service is to protect postal customer's mail and ensure that their mail is safe from theft."
Among the cases developed in the course of the operation were the following:
Sacramento: Postal inspectors secured indictments of three defendants who obtained stolen mail by breaking into NDCBUs in Elk Grove and Sacramento. One of the defendants used her position as a sales clerk at a retail establishment to open fraudulent accounts and use account information obtained from stolen mail. Postal inspectors also secured indictments of five other defendants conducting NDCBU break-ins in Rancho Cordova, Elverta, Rocklin, Roseville, Natomas, Rio Linda, Elkhorn, and Antelope. Several search warrants resulted in the recovery of hundreds of pieces of stolen mail and stolen postal keys.
Fresno: Postal inspectors conducted a probation search on a recidivist believed to be involved in NDCBU break-ins in Fresno and Madera and recovered stolen mail and six counterfeit postal keys.
Bakersfield: Postal inspectors identified a collection box fishing group and conducted surveillance that resulted in the arrest of three defendants for mail theft. Searches subsequent to the arrests recovered a large volume of stolen mail and several postal keys. The investigation resulted in the indictment of five suspects.
To date, Operation Broken Mailbox resulted in at least 22 arrests, 33 searches, the recovery of ten counterfeit or stolen postal keys, and the identification of more than 2,100 victims and nearly $400,000 in losses. The U.S. Postal Inspection Service worked closely with several law enforcement agencies, including the Sacramento Police Department, The Bakersfield Police Department, the Elk Grove Police Department, the Kern County Sheriff's Office, and the Placer County Sheriff's Office. The work of Operation Broken Mailbox is ongoing.