When it started
Kettering police began investigating reports of check theft in July 2021 after checks totaling $24,000 were fraudulently altered and cashed in the region.
Those cases involved about 15 victims who dropped checks in outdoor mailboxes at the Forrer Boulevard and East Stroop Road post offices in Kettering
A string of check thefts from U.S. Postal Service mailboxes was to follow.
What exactly is happening?
The thieves use a letter carrier’s “arrow key,” which is a universal key that unlocks the blue collection boxes, to gain access to post office drop boxes.
A postal service key that unlocks “all Dayton-area mailboxes” was reported stolen in May, police records show. It is possible that more than one key is being used to commit these crimes.
Two U.S. Postal Service workers were robbed of their keys at gunpoint in September 2021 within 15 minutes of each other in Montgomery County. One carrier had his “arrow key” stolen, the other did not have an “arrow key” but had his entire set of keys taken, including his mail truck keys.
Drop boxes outside of post offices are not surveilled by cameras
Detectives said the suspects took the checks, changed the name of the payee and the amount of money the checks were written for and were then able to cash the checks, which is fraud.
A suspect allegedly washed the checks in order to remove the ink and write in a new amount.
How often is this happening?
There have been at least 40 reported local cases this year.
In one instance, an estimated 1,000 envelopes — including graduation cards and wedding invitations — were found in a Dumpster in Kettering.
Researchers say the thefts help fuel millions of dollars in cyber-crimes in the U.S. Checks stolen from mailboxes and sold online in October 2021 had a face value of $11.6 million
Those who have been arrested so far
Michael E. George, of Cincinnati, Craig A. Ross, of Dayton, Brittany L. Kinder and Daniel L. Yates, both of Newport, Ky., all faced charges. They were suspected of stealing and passing about 30 checks totaling around $100,000.
George, 64, and Ross, 29, are charged with forgery and theft, while Kinder, 30, and Yates, 26, face grand theft and forgery charges.
Keith D. Calahan, 23, of Dayton; Leonard A. Blackstone, 19, of Kettering; Jeff Weaver, 22, of Centerville; and Amond N. Turner, 22, of Trotwood; were arrested in May on preliminary theft and receiving stolen property charges.
Calahan was also booked on resisting arrest and obstructing official business.
Juan T. Harris, 27, was arrested on a felony charge of receiving stolen property after a crime at the 1490 Forrer Blvd. post office
Suspects in other cases are still being sought.
What can residents do?
USPS officials recommend using drop boxes inside post offices.
Many post offices have 24-hour lobby access. Customers can find lobby hours online at https://tools.usps.com/find-location.
Law enforcement recommends that people also regularly monitor their bank accounts for suspicious activity.
How to report a tip
To report a tip, call the U.S. Postal Inspection Service at 1-877-876-2455. The reference numbers for the cases are 3834283 and 3834424.
Mailbox theft victims can report their case via phone 24 hours a day at 877-876-2455, or visit the postal inspection service’s website, www.uspis.gov.
A direct email is set up for the public to contact its Cincinnati office at CFOMT@uspis.gov