By LINDA CHION KENNEY
The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office warns of mailbox theft, following the arrests of three people linked to a series of crimes, “not only here in Hillsborough, but all across Tampa Bay.”
According to law enforcement officials, “detectives found that the suspects had pocketed numerous forms of personally-identifying information, including social security cards and credit cards.” Moreover, the report alleges that the trio “located and recovered stolen firearms and ammunition, stolen laptops, stolen auto parts, stolen lawn equipment and other miscellaneous items.”
Highlighted in the report concerning the arrests of Benjamin Favata, Aaron James Montgomery and Jacquelyne Heiser is a strong warning to would-be offenders that mailbox theft will not be tolerated.
According to the sheriff’s office report, the suspects “exploited their victims by going straight to their mailboxes, stealing their mail and taking their personal information to access their bank account and spend their hard-earned money.”
Calling it “abhorrent behavior,” the report further notes that law enforcement officials “will work to protect hardworking citizens from this type of exploitation.”
Indeed, United States Postal Service (USPS) officials warn also about mail theft and offer a series of tips for residents and businesses to protect themselves, including that they try not to leave letters and packages in mailboxes or at doors for any length of time.
In addition to promptly picking up their mail, people should make inquiries with postal officials and senders “as soon as possible,” should an expected “check, credit card or other valuable mail” not be received in a timely manner.
Also suggested is not to send cash in the mail and to use the “USPS Hold Mail Service”if prompt pickup cannot be arranged or if someone will not be home to receive the package. When shipping or mailing something of importance, senders should request signature confirmation from the intended recipient or use the “hold for pickup option” that requires recipients to collect their packages at their local post offices.
Residents also should file a change of address as soon as possible after a move and promptly alert financial institutions as well.
Meanwhile, law enforcement remains diligent, as in the “extensive investigation into bank fraud and mail theft cases” throughout Tampa Bay, conducted by the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office’s Economic Crimes Section.Reportedly, Favata, Montgomery and Heiserwere were arrested June 23, following a search warrant at a home in Tampa. According to the law enforcement report, “the defendants had accumulated the items worth thousands of dollars over a period of several months.”
According to their booking reports, Favata, 32, faces four charges, including unlawful possession of personal identification of another (five or more), fraudulent use of credit card over $100, petit theft first degree and burglary of an unoccupied conveyance. Montgomery, 23, faces 10 charges, including grand theft motor vehicle, grand theft third degree ($5,000 to $10,000), fraudulent use of credit card over $100, petit theft first degree, felony petit theft and burglary of an unoccupied conveyance. Heiser, 28, was arrested on five charges, including fraudulent use of personal information, fraudulent use of credit card less than $100, burglary of an unoccupied conveyance and trespass in unoccupied structure or conveyance.
To report suspected mailbox theft, call the United States Postal Inspection Service at 1-877-876-2455, visit www.USPIS.gov/., or visit the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office at www.teamhcso.com/.