A string of mailbox thefts has frustrated the Dayton area for the past year, and it’s not over. But federal court records show how local police used technology in one case to track suspects and make arrests, surprising the men as they carried stolen checks out of an apartment.
Kettering police “became aware very early in the investigations into the post office drop box thefts that the perpetrators of these crimes were taking the entire contents of the drop boxes and sorting everything after the fact,” patrolman and department spokesman Tyler Johnson said in an email.
Detectives got the postal service’s permission to place three GPS devices inside the drop boxes starting in March 2022, so they would be alerted when the devices moved, Johnson added.
The Kettering police “dummy” parcels were “packaged and marked to appear as a legitimate piece of mail … inside each of the three blue collection boxes” at the Forrer Boulevard post office, which had been targeted in previous thefts, a signed affidavit by U.S. Postal Inspector Brett Yenger states.
GPS tracking from a first theft around 1:30 a.m. May 14 wasn’t processed until the next morning. It revealed that one dummy parcel was discarded within a few minutes, while the other two were driven to a Beavercreek post office, from which the suspects fled at 119 mph, according to Yenger. The third parcel stayed with the suspects through a 2:17 a.m. Waffle House run and a two-hour stop at a West Dayton house before being dumped in Harrison Twp.
Police recovered the GPS parcels and put them back in the same mailboxes. On May 19, they were alerted that the trackers were on the move again. Police tracked the mail to an apartment building on Gracemore Avenue in Kettering near The Greene, where they became stationary, according to Yenger’s affidavit.
While police were conducting surveillance of the building, Leonard Blackstone III walked out carrying a “a number of personal checks in various names.” When police approached him, he dropped the checks, according to court documents. Jeffrey Weaver Jr. exited the same building with a small bag that contained checks and a firearm. Keith Dujuan Calahan left the building carrying two black trash bags that were found to contain mail and two of the GPS parcels.
Credit: JIM NOELKER/STAFF
Credit: JIM NOELKER/STAFF
A search warrant was then executed at the apartment they left. It revealed blank check templates, personal checks in various names not belonging to the individuals, two firearms, a printer, and opened mail in various names not belonging to the men, according to Yenger.
After months of court proceedings, U.S. Attorney’s Office officials said the three pleaded guilty earlier this year in federal court. Blackstone, of Kettering, pleaded to obstruction of mail; Dujuan Calahan, of Dayton, pleaded guilty to receipt and unlawful possession of stolen mail; and Weaver, of Centerville, pleaded guilty to receipt and unlawful possession of stolen mail.
U.S. Attorney spokesman Fred Alverson said obstruction of mail carries a sentence of up to six months incarceration, while receipt of stolen mail carries a sentence of up to five years.
Problems with theft from Dayton-area postal mailboxes continues. Two men were arrested in Oakwood on March 31 in possession of a postal service collection box key, or “arrow key,” as well as opened and unopened mail not addressed to or from either of them, according to Oakwood police.
Over the past year, Kettering police have urged residents not to use outdoor postal mailboxes, but to physically go into their post office to send mail.