One afternoon last month, residents of a Hialeah neighborhood noticed a man systematically looking in all the mailboxes along a block of East Ninth Court and Sixth Street.
Residents called 911, and Hialeah police responded. An officer spotted a man who matched the description.
Yunior Blanco, 19, was carrying a black bag when he was questioned by Hialeah police. He was detained by police after they searched the bag and discovered pieces of mail belonging to other people, including a debit card.
The case was subsequently turned over to federal investigators because it involved U.S. mail, a federal service.
Blanco pleaded not guilty in Miami federal court last week.
U.S. investigators say mail theft is an increasingly troublesome dimension of identity theft. In Atlanta recently, U.S. postal authorities discovered that more than 50 people had had their mail stolen with losses to victims of more than $150,000. An Atlanta television station — CBS46 — included on its website a video showing how thieves actually waited for mail carriers to deliver letters to a mailbox, then drove up, stuck their hands in and took the mail.
Blanco’s arrest is described in a criminal complaint filed by a U.S. Postal Inspector in Miami federal court.
The inspector, Reldys Torres, said in the complaint that he got involved after receiving a call from Hialeah police, who had previously detained Blanco after he was found with other people’s mail in his black bag,
“On June 18, 2014, at approximately 2:30 p.m., the U.S. Postal Inspection Service received a call from the City of Hialeah Police Department (HPD) stating that they had an individual in custody, later identified by your affiant as Yunior Blanco,” the complaint said. “Earlier that day, HPD officers responded to a 911 call that a male whose actions appeared suspicious was walking around the area of East 9th Court and 6th Street in Hialeah, Florida, looking into mailboxes.”
The complaint said that when questioned, Blanco said he had just found the black bag he was carrying.
Police looked in the bag and found items that did not belong to Blanco.
“The bag contained a number of Blanco’s possessions, including his wallet and cellular telephone,” the complaint said. “There was also a Regions Debit Card belonging to an individual with the initials “M.D.” The bag also contained U.S. mail addressed to nine different households.”
The complaint also quoted several witnesses as saying that they had seen the suspect carrying the bag and looking at a mailbox attached to a property surrounded by a fence.
No one was quoted as saying in the complaint that their mail had been stolen.
But a man interviewed by El Nuevo Herald said a letter containing three checks was taken from his mailbox.
“I did not see the thief reach into my mailbox, but the police who responded to the scene had our letter, and they returned it to me with the checks inside,” said the man, who did not provide his name.