Carrollton residents allege mail theft

Published 9:35 pm Wednesday, June 3, 2020

By Stephen Faleski

Staff Writer


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Some Carrollton residents are alleging a rash of mail thefts over the past few months.

Anthony Hiltz, who lives in the Eagle Harbor housing development, said that in mid-February this year, he received a single Valentine’s Day card for one of his four children, and later learned that the sender had mailed four cards — one for each child, each containing money, all in brightly-colored, greeting-card-sized envelopes.

Later that month, two other cards arrived in envelopes that, in Hiltz’s words, had been ripped along one edge as if someone had been trying to look inside to see if the cards had anything in them.

Elaine Brown, who also lives in the Eagle Harbor development, having moved to Carrollton last year, said her daughter had been expecting a birthday card last November from a friend in California, which never arrived. She later learned, upon talking with the mother of her daughter’s friend, that that card had included a gift card.

Brown had signed up for what the U.S. Postal Service refers to as “informed delivery,” which sends daily scanned images of incoming mail prior to its arrival, though the USPS website states that incoming mail may or may not arrive the same day the informed delivery scan is sent. The morning in question, she had received a scan indicating a greeting-card-sized envelope from her daughter’s friend was on its way. Sometime after the scan was sent to her, that envelope and card went missing, as it didn’t show up in her mailbox later that day or any day thereafter.

The same thing nearly happened again in February when Brown was expecting a letter from her mother. The morning of Feb. 14, her informed delivery service had sent her a photo of the envelope on its way. When it arrived the next day, it appeared to have already been opened. Fortunately for Brown, this time the gift card her mother had sent her was still inside the opened envelope.

Since the incident in February, Hiltz has also now signed up for informed delivery and says he hasn’t noticed anything having gone missing since. That said, he acknowledged his family hasn’t celebrated that many birthdays or card-sending holidays since February.

Hiltz and Brown aren’t alone in their frustrations either. In the “lost and found” forum on the neighborhood-centric social media website, Rocky Jacobs, a resident of the Graystone housing development off Smith’s Neck Road, writes, “Two Easter cards with money never reached my granddaughters. First time this has happened since moving here 10 years ago.”

“We had two incoming cards over the holiday that we saw were scanned on our postal app but never made to our Carrollton P.O. Box,” Lisa Taylor writes. “We also believe they were stolen. It is quite sad. It happens so often now. We never had any issues with our mail ever in Carrollton. We have lived here for over 18 years but it all started around November 2019 time-frame. Truly makes you wonder. I put in a complaint online each time at USPS and called. Please, if enough people do it, something will finally be done about it.”

“My birthday card and my Christmas card from my 99-year-old mother in Newport News never got to my P.O. Box in Rescue,” writes Carol Baugher, a Smith’s Neck Road resident.

According to Lt. Tommy Potter, spokesman for the Isle of Wight County Sheriff’s Office, the theft of mail is a federal crime, and not something the Sheriff’s Office would typically investigate. Mail theft, he said, is the jurisdiction of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, a federal law enforcement agency. He wasn’t aware if anything had been filed with the Sheriff’s Office regarding these complaints.

“We recently made an arrest where individuals were stealing mail from mail boxes and using that information to commit identity fraud,” Potter said. “But that was not in the Carrollton area.”

Michael Romano, postal inspector for the USPIS, said his department wasn’t aware of any active mail theft cases in the Carrollton area at this time, but advised those who believe themselves to have been the victim of mail theft, to report it to the USPIS by calling 1-877-876-2455 or online at Mail theft, he added, carries a penalty of up to five years in federal prison for each offense.

According to its website, the USPS digitally images the front of letter-sized envelopes to sort and deliver mail via automated equipment. Those who sign up for informed delivery, which is offered for free, receive those images prior to their mail’s arrival. When asked how many people have access to a person’s mail between the time it is digitally imaged and the time it arrives in that person’s mailbox, Romano deferred to the USPS Communications Department, stating that informed delivery does not fall under his law enforcement purview. The Smithfield Times then contacted Freda Sauter, a spokeswoman for the USPS, who deferred back to Romano.

Additional actions residents can take to prevent mail theft, Romano said, include:

• Promptly removing mail from your mailbox after delivery/not leaving mail in your box overnight;

• Having a friend or neighbor retrieve your mail if you are going to be away, or submit a hold mail request to your local post office;

• When possible, deposit your outgoing mail at a post office;

• Never send cash in the mail. If you send a check or gift card, maintain the check or card number so it can be tracked if determined to be lost or stolen;

• Consider installing a lockable mailbox or obtaining P.O. Box service from your local post office.