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Sirens & Gavels

Posts tagged: mail theft

N. Idaho check theft suspects arrested

  A 28-year-old man and a 17-year-old runaway linked by police to check thefts in Coeur d'Alene are in custody.

Michael Graham Wilkins and Lacey Lynn Fugate were arrested at the Lake Drive Motel, 316 E. Coeur d'Alene Lake Drive, Friday about 6:30 p.m. after detectives received a tip that they were there, Coeur d'Alene police said today.

Police found property purchased with stolen credit cards and checks in the motel room, including a printer and package of blank checks purchased online.

Officers arrested Wilkins and Fugate on warrants out of Douglas County, Oregon, where Roseburg is.

They face new charges of grand theft and burglary in Kootenai County.

Tattoo could help track mail theft suspect

   A 28-year-old Coeur d'Alene man and a 17-year-old runaway from Oregon are suspected of stealing checks from mailboxes in the Lake City.

Michael Graham Wilkins and Lacey Lynn Fugate are suspected of stealing two checks from a business' mailbox in the 100 block of East Locust Avenue around July 28, police said Thursday.

Police released their photos Thursday, along with a photo of an tattoo on Wilkins' right arm.

Wilkins is accused of adding his name to the checks and cashing them at Safeway.

An employee told police he cashes checks there recently.

A warrant has been issued for Wilkins' arrest. Fugate is a runaway from Douglas County, Oregon.

Anyone with information on their location is asked to call the Coeur d'Alene Police Department at (208) 769-2320.

Alleged mail thieves jailed without bail

A federal prosecutor said she's “appalled” by the number of people who had their mail stolen in in a suspected regional theft ring and may seek aggravating circumstances against four suspects.

“This is an ongoing, every day thing,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Pam Byerly said. “This is their job.”

Dominque M. Ryan, 18; her sister, Candice J. Thompson, 22; and Thompson's boyfriend, Eric J. Peltier, Jr., 29,  are in federal custody without bail after their arrests Monday.

U.S. Magistrate Cynthia Imbrogno denied requests by Ryan and Thompson's lawyers, Bevan Maxey and Jeffry Finer, to be released. Finer has appealed the decision and cites, among other reasons, the fact that the U.S. Probation Office recommended she be released to live with her father in Tacoma.

Ryan's boyfriend, Kyle K. Croson, 21, is at large. Peltier's lawyer, Jaime Hawk, had his bail hearing postponed until Tuesday. Peltier has a misdemeanor warrant in Pierce County.

The suspects face months to a couple of years in prison if convicted of stealing mail, which is a federal offense.

Ryan, who had methamphetamine and marijuana with her when she was arrested, has no criminal history and works at a call center. Thompson has convictions for driving while license suspended and failure to transfer car title.

The women have been deeply affected by the drug overdose death of their mother, according to court testimony. Lawyer Jeffry Finer said he's worried Thompson is “chasing her mom's history.”

Thompson's three-year-old daughter was in their apartment in 300 block of East Baldwin Avenue when law enforcement arrived Monday. The child is now in the custody of Child Protective Services. Finer said it's difficult to discuss that with Thompson. “Whenever we touch on that issue, she breaks down,” Finer told Imbrogno.

Investigators recovered about 1,000 pieces of mail stolen from hundreds of people in Eastern Washington and North Idaho in the apartment and in two cars Monday.

Peltier told police he and Thompson moved to Spokane from Tacoma about two months ago with their daughter to live with Ryan and Croson.

He, Thompson and Ryan cried in court on Thursday.

“I love you, too” Peltier said to Thompson as she was led out of the courtroom in handcuffs.

He then turned to two friends in the audience and, through sobs, denied the allegations.

“It wasn't us,” Peltier said. “It wasn't us.”

Heaps of stolen mail found in Spokane

About 1,000 pieces of mail stolen from hundreds of people in Eastern Washington and North Idaho were recovered in Spokane on Monday.

Police had been investigating the thefts since a woman reported seeing a white car with two men and two women stealing from mailboxes on May 24.

Spokane police Officer Glenn Bartlett reported contacting a suspicious vehicle that was circling a neighborhood on May 26. The occupants he contacted later emerged as suspects in the mail thefts when their names were attached to bank accounts where altered checks had been deposited.

Detectives with the Spokane Financial Crimes Task Force identified the suspect vehicle as a 1997 Dodge Intrepid belonging to Kyle Croson, 21. Police searched Croson's apartment in the 300 block of East Baldwin Avenue on Monday. Candice J. Thompson, 22, and her boyfriend, Eric J. Peltier, Jr., 29, were arrested.

Peltier told police he and Thompson moved to Spokane from Tacoma about two months ago with their three-year-old daughter to live with Thompson's sister, Dominque Ryan. Ryan is Croson's girlfriend.

Peltier said they started “mailboxing” about two weeks after arriving in Spokane. He said Croson and Ryan frequently “mailbox” but that he and Thompson hadn't done so recently because they were out of money for fuel. Investigators searched the apartment as well as the Dodge Intrepid and a Chevy Malibu, where they recovered the stolen mail.

Thomspon said they stole mail “hoping to find cash inside of graduation cards,” according to court documents.

Croson, Thompson, Peltier and Ryan are charged in U.S. District Court in Spokane.

Man pleads guilty in bank fraud case

An Arizona man who helped a North Idaho woman commit bank fraud has pleaded guilty.

Charles Earl Baker, 32, faces up to 30 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and five years of probation when he's sentenced June 19 in U.S. District Court in Coeru d'Alene.

Baker pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to commit bank fraud for a scheme involving Michelle Ann Mason, who pleaded guilty earlier this month.

Baker met Mason in late 2010 and opened a bank account that he used to deposit counterfeit, altered or forged checks that had been stolen from mail.

Baker then withdrew the cash using ATMs. Mason admitted to organizing Baker and at least five others to steal mail in the Oldtown, Idaho, area. Mason is to be sentenced June 18.

The case was investigated by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Pend Oreille County Sheriff's Office, Kootenai County Sheriff's Department, Bonner County Sheriff's Office, and the U.S. Secret Service.

Woman guilty in Oldtown mail theft ring

A woman who led a mail theft ring in the Oldtown, Idaho, area pleaded guilty last week in Coeur d'Alene.

Michelle Ann Mason, 27, faces up to 30 years in prison, a $1 million fine and five years of probation when she's sentenced June 18 in U.S. District Court in Coeur d'Alene. She also is to pay $37,790.39 restitution.

Co-defendant Charles Earl Baker is scheduled to begin trial March 27.

Mason admitted to organizing at least six people to steal mail in he Oldtown area. Her co-conspirators opened bank accounts, and Mason deposited counterfeit or forged checks that had been stolen from the mail, then withdraw cash from the accounts through ATMs.

Mason used the money to buy items and pay bills. Her victims included banks, merchants and the intended mail recipients.

Mason pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft Wednesday.

Ex-postal worker sentenced in mail theft

An ex-postal supervisor and Air Force veteran will be on probation for five years for stealing prescription medication from mail.

Mark Charles Raley, 46, of Spokane also will pay $5,045 in restitution under a sentence imposed this week in U.S. District Court in Spokane. He pleaded guilty in May to two counts of theft of mail by a postal service employee.

Raley was a supervisor at the U.S. Postal Service Spokane Processing and Distribution Center when he became addicted to hydrocodone after undergone gastric bypass surgery. He was being treated at the Spokane Veterans Affairs Medical Center but grew heavily addicted and began sorting mail looking for VA package containing hydrocodone. He wouldn't steal any other prescription drugs, according to court documents.

“Mr. Raley does not have a checkered past and was not looking to profit from his conduct by selling to others; rather, he simply sought to support his hydrocodone addiction,” according to a sentencing memorandum prepared by his lawyer, John McEntire.

In a prepared statement, Michael Seitler, an Office of Inspector General special agent in charge of the VA’s northwest field office, said Raley “prevented numerous veterans from receiving the medication they desperately needed.”

Raley entered a drug treatment program offered by the VA in December shortly after being confronted about the thefts. He continues to attend drug rehab and is living in a clean-and-sober house that requires him to take random drug tests.

Raley wants to attend school to be a substance abuse counselor, McEntire said.

Several mail thefts reported in Valley

Here's a news release from Spokane Valley police Sgt. Dave Reagan:

Numerous Spokane Valley residents living in the area of 14300 to 14600 East Sixth reported their mail being stolen from street-side rural mailboxes between Monday evening and Tuesday afternoon.

Residents found their mail opened and tossed on the ground along the roadway. It was unknown if the thief found anything of value to steal, but identity thieves frequently target mail to obtain personal financial information which they then use to victimize the intended mail recipient.

Outgoing personal checks provide thieves with the names, addresses and account numbers of checking account holders, and incoming mail can provide pre-approved loan applications which can be activated with a simple signature.

Although financial institutions usually cover the victim’s monetary loss, it can take months or years to fix the victim’s credit history damaged by the suspect’s thefts.

Law enforcement professionals encourage all area residents to purchase a locking roadside mailbox to receive incoming mail on rural routes, or to rent a mailbox at the nearest post office.

Outgoing mail containing checks or cash should always be deposited in the larger blue U.S. Postal Service mailboxes located at shopping malls, grocery stores or in front of post office annexes.

Meth-addicted mail thieves sentenced

Two Spokane women who stole mail to help fuel their methamphetamine addictions are to repay nearly $50,000 and spend about four years in federal prison.

Jacquelyn A. Crawford, 40, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Edward Shea to 53 months in prison after pleading guilty in October to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.

Charlene M. Haggard, 43, received 48 months for the same charges.

Both will be on probation for three years and are prohibited from accruing debt, opening checking accounts or obtaining bank cards without a probation officer's approval. They also are to repay nearly $47,375.16 for counterfeit checks they passed at area businesses.

Haggard and Crawford gathered materials for fake checks by ransacking rural mail boxes and prowling cars from February until April, when investigators searched Haggard's home at 5904 N. Regal St. and Crawford's room at the Apple Tree Inn, 9508 N. Division Street.

Crawford said she was “kind of relieved” when she was taken into custody, investigators said.

“She just began injecting methamphetamine, so in a way she was thankful she was caught,” Spokane County Sheriff's Office Detective Dean Meyer said in May. Crawford, a mother of three, completed in-patient rehabilitation and was allowed to stay with her mother in Spanaway pending sentencing. Haggard remains in the Spokane County Jail awaiting transport to prison.

2 arrested in Valley post office break-in

An observant postal inspector arrested two mail theft suspects this week after recognizing them from surveillance video.

Tony L. Gust, 31, and Dustin C. Hoyle, 22, were arrested Tuesday after admitting to breaking into post office boxes at the Opportunity station and stealing mail, according to federal court documents.

The men are accused of breaking into 32 post office boxes and 18 parcel lockers at the post office at 11712 E. Sprague Ave early Monday.

Video showed two men breaking into the boxes about 12:52 a.m. and leaving at 1:07 a.m., then returning at 1:42 a.m. and using a knife to access the lockers, according to court documents.

U.S. Postal Inspector Shannon Saylor was patrolling the area of Pines and 5th Avenue Tuesday when she saw two men who looked like the burglars.

Hoyle and Gust were detained for questioning then arrested after reportedly admitting to the crime.

Both were allowed to leave jail after appearing in U.S. District Court on Tuesday, but Hoyle remains in jail on an unrelated negligent driving charge.

Women guilty in mail, identity theft scam

Two Spokane women who stole mail to perpetuate an identity theft scheme aimed at fueling a methamphetamine addiction pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court.

Jacquelyn A. Crawford, 40, and Charlene M. Haggard, 43, pilfered bank account numbers and used stolen driver's licenses to manufacture and pass more than 100 counterfeit checks that bilked Spokane area businesses of about $40,000.

The two ransacked rural mail boxes and prowled cars from February until April, when investigators searched Haggard's home at 5904 N. Regal St. and Crawford's room at the Apple Tree Inn, 9508 N. Division Street. Crawford said she was “kind of relieved” when she was taken into custody, investigators said.

“She just began injecting methamphetamine, so in a way she was thankful she was caught,” Spokane County Sheriff's Office Detective Dean Meyer said in May.

Crawford and Haggard pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and aggravated identity theft. Sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 17; they're incarcerated at the Spokane County Jail. Their plea agreements call for each to serve prison time, pay restitution to their victims and forfeit criminal proceeds, including property obtained with counterfeit checks.

The U.S Postal Service offers these tips to protect mail:

•Use the letter slots at your post office to mail letters, or give them to a letter carrier.

•Pick up your mail promptly after delivery. Don’t leave it in your mailbox overnight. •Don’t send cash in the mail.

•Ask your bank for checks that can’t be altered.

•Tell your post office when you’ll be out of town, so they can hold your mail until you return.

Report mail theft here.

Stolen mail tied to Spokane ID theft scheme

An investigation into stolen mail led detectives to an identity theft scheme allegedly orchestrated by a Spokane woman they say was “kind of relieved” when she was arrested.

“She dw.ckltold us we were good,” Spokane County sheriff’s Detective Dean MeyerÖ said of the suspect, Jacquelyn A. CrawfordÖ. “She just began injecting methamphetamine, so in way she was thankful she was caught.”

Crawford, 40, and Charlene M. HaggardÖ, 42, are accused of stealing mail and prowling cars, then creating bogus checks with pilfered bank account numbers that were passed at stores throughout Spokane County and in North Idaho. The women allegedly used driver’s licenses stolen along with the check information to complete the scheme.

Read the rest of my story here.

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