One of our country’s most valued and oldest government agencies is the United States Postal Service. Benjamin Franklin became the first Post Office Inspector General, and since its creation, the Office of the Inspector General became renowned as one of the best investigative agencies in America. So why would anyone want to rob a United States Postal Office? The answer most likely would be a rather ignorant criminal.
A gentleman called our Investigation company to tell us his US Post Office Box located in a small USPO in Southern California was burglarized and all his mail taken. What concerned him most was that some of his mail was year-end 1099 tax forms and credit card renewals. He and his wife’s Social Security numbers were on the 1099’s. He immediately notified his credit card companies about the theft and was told some suspicious charges posted to several of his credit cards amounting to thousands of dollars. The gentleman hired us to find out who broke into his PO Box because the local Sheriff and the US Postal Inspector had not yet commenced their investigations and he was very concerned losing valuable time waiting for the authorities to start their investigation. Our client told us he had an enormous amount of faith in our abilities after reading one of our blog articles about how to retain a private investigator.
We found our client to be quite organized. He requested and received copies of all of his credit card charges from the credit card companies, and organized them in chronological order by date and time of purchase. We reviewed the charges with him began to create a timeline as to the oldest and newest charges, and we pinpointed on a map where the criminals made most of their purchases.
We visited several of the establishments where charges were made. For the most part, the store managers were cooperative, and one manager allowed us to view their video footage upon without presenting him with a subpoena which was helpful. The store’s CCTV system was synced with customer’s credit card numbers, the amount of sale and the date and time of the sale transaction. We provided our client’s credit card number to the manager along with the charge slip. Within minutes we were watching a video of the thieves who broke into our client’s PO Box standing at the checkout counter acting very casual. We saw two men and a young woman standing together and leaving together. As they drove out of the parking lot, we captured their license plate number. We tracked down the registered owner of the car and acquired his address in Fontana, California. We placed the apartment building under surveillance and eventually learned the registered owner was no longer living there.
We then met with a detective from the Fontana Police Department and told him about the video and what we learned. He pulled up the license plate number on his computer and saw that car had been stopped in Fontana for a violation and the driver was a female fitting the description of the woman we saw on the video. We ran that woman’s name through our databases and came up with a couple of possible addresses for her. The address on her driver’s license was no longer valid. Now that we identified the female we were able also to identify who one of the men was.
We thought it was now the right time to meet with a special agent for the Inspector General of the US Postal Service. The agent in charge was a top-notch seasoned female investigator who was able to access her prioritized databases, and she saw that the man we identified was on parole and recently released from prison. Paroles must provide a current address to their parole office, and now we had one good lead as to where all three of the gang lived. We volunteered to conduct surveillance for a couple of days outside his residence to confirm if the young woman lived there and third unidentified man also lived there. We videotaped the female and both men leaving the residence and immediately notified the agent for the Inspector General. We gave the agent our video and she, in turn, showed it the US Attorney who issued Federal Search and Arrest Warrants for all three suspects. The agent and the FBI were able to obtain entry into the gang’s residence, and once inside they found thousands of dollars of merchandise purchased not only by our client’s credit cards but with dozens of other victim’s credit cards. All three suspects were arrested.
Further investigation revealed that these suspects had broken into US Post Offices Boxes throughout Southern California and had charged hundreds of thousands of dollars onto stolen credit cards. The criminals even had the audacity to apply for new credit cards with increased limits in the names of their victims, and they used their own Post Office Box addresses scattered across Southern California to receive their credit cards.
Who were they? The ring leader was recently paroled from a Federal Prison for the very same crime of breaking into US Post Office boxes. The female involved with this gruesome gang was his wife’s daughter and her heroin addicted boyfriend. Those bad guys received very long prison sentences. As you can imagine our client was delighted to learn the thieves were captured and he was very grateful as we were for the assistance of the Detective with the Fontana Police Department and the agent from the Inspector General Office.
All in a day’s work, as they say.