Deputies from the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Dept. are currently investigating the connection between the recent discovery of over 300 items of stolen mail in a Santa Barbara hotel room and a string of mail thefts from residential mailboxes and U.S. Postal Service vehicles in Santa Barbara County.
According to a press release from the Sheriff’s Dept., detectives from the department recovered stolen mail, credit cards, personal and business checks, identification cards and electronic items during an April 27 search of a Santa Barbara hotel room. Deputies are currently investigating whether the mail they discovered in April and a string of mail thefts and U.S. Postal Service vehicle burglaries reported between Lompoc and Carpinteria are related. Deputies believe the suspects involved in the crimes are currently using personal data found in the stolen mail to make purchases, open new financial accounts and withdraw funds from existing accounts, the press release stated.
Renee Focht, a spokesperson for the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, said the agency is currently conducting an ongoing joint investigation into the thefts with the Sheriff’s Dept. She said there are several precautions local residents can take to ensure that their mail is not stolen.
“[People should] promptly remove mail after it is delivered, never leave anything overnight, make sure you deposit mail in post office bins before the last scheduled pickup and request [that] the post office put your mail on hold when leaving for vacation,” Focht said.
According to the press release, the Sheriff’s Dept. also suggests that individuals with curbside mailboxes drop their mail off at a post office rather than leave it in their residential box, because the red flags used to indicate the presence of outgoing mail could draw criminals’ attention. Local residents should also monitor their bank accounts for any fraudulent or suspicious activity.
Stealing private mail is a felony and a federal offense under Title 18, Section 1708 in the U.S. Penal Code, punishable with fines and up to five years of jail time, Focht said. She said the U.S. Postal Inspection Service is offering compensation for anyone who helps it apprehend the mail thieves.
“There is an up-to-$5,000 reward for any information leading to the arrest and conviction of the criminals involved,” Focht said.
Mail theft victims and people with possible leads on the mail thieves can report their losses or tips through the U.S. Postal Inspection Service’s website, www.usps.com/postalinspectors, or via telephone at (626) 405-1200.