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Carson City target of mail thief

by F.T. Norton
Appeal Staff Writer

Hundreds of Carson City residents may have fallen victim to mail theft after a large quantity of stolen mail was recovered last week in the custody of a contracted postal carrier, a federal investigator confirmed Wednesday.

Jeff Fitch, U.S. Postal Inspector and division spokesman, said the suspect is not a postal employee, but was contracted by the U.S. Postal Service to deliver both incoming and outgoing Carson City mail between Carson City and Reno.

Fitch declined to reveal details of the investigation, such as dates surrounding the thefts, but said letters were being sent out to the people whose names were on the items found.

“Basically, the potential for victims is all of Carson City,” he said.

One such letter informed Carson City resident Donna Downs that a $200 money order she sent March 1 to her daughter in Oregon never made it. Downs said she sent the money order tucked inside a greeting card to celebrate the birth of her granddaughter.

In the letter dated Wednesday and signed by Reno Postal Inspector C. Thomas Brucklacher, Downs is informed of the theft and told her money order was found among the stolen items. The letter identified the suspect by name, but since he has not been arrested and no charges have been filed, the Nevada Appeal has chosen to withhold that information.

According to the letter, postal inspectors contacted the suspect March 7 and found him in possession of stolen mail and “numerous other pieces of mail.”

“The original mail is being held in evidence by this office and cannot be returned until (the) federal case is finished. Your mail will be used as evidence,” the letter states.

Downs said that inside the letter was a photocopy of her money order.

Also enclosed was a questionnaire asking, among several other questions, when the mail was sent, where it was deposited, for a description of the contents and if the sender knows the suspect and authorized him to possess their items.

“I had a funny feeling about this when my daughter didn’t call, but I’ve had something from Tahoe take 31 days to get here, so I didn’t really worry about it,” Downs said. “I certainly will have second thoughts about putting money in something from now on.”

When she learned by phone her money order wouldn’t be returned for at least a year, Downs headed to the bank to stop payment. After paying $37 to get back her $200, she was angry and aggravated at the trouble.

“I’m going to call the post office and tell them they are going to give me the $37. This is their fault,” she said.

Inspector Fitch said not all of the victims have been identified. Among the recovered items are envelopes missing the contents and loose photographs with no identification on them, according to the letter.

“If people are missing anything, especially things that we can track such as checks and gift cards, please call the Reno office at (775) 328-6040,” Fitch said.

Theft of mail is a federal crime with a potential maximum penalty of five years in federal prison and a $250 fine for each piece of mail stolen.

“This type of mail theft is not very common. In fact, it’s very, very rare,” Fitch said. “But one instance is one too many.”

n Contact reporter F.T. Norton at ftnorton@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1213.