Thieves steal mail, personal information, in 4 local communities

This collection box in Lorena was targeted by thieves over the Fourth of July weekend. (Photo by John Carroll)
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LORENA, Texas (KWTX) Thieves broke into the blue mail collection boxes outside post offices over the Fourth of July weekend in Lorena and three other area communities, took the contents, and used some of the checks they found to make unauthorized purchases and withdrawals, Lorena police confirmed Friday.

Collection boxes were also broken into in Troy, Jarrell and Round Rock.

“Somebody came up and cut the lock off the back of the mailbox that was outside and they removed the mail that was in there,” Lorena Police Investigator Kraig Disney said Friday.

"At this time we are not sure just how much mail was taken.”

"We have received a few reports from people that noticed that their checks didn't make it to their destination and then came up and talk to us after they found out their checks were cashed in other places,” he said.

One Lorena woman who, asked not to be named, dropped off bill payments at the Lorena Post Office over the holiday weekend and then discovered an unauthorized $400 withdrawal this week.

She was forced to change account numbers and redirect automatic withdrawals and direct deposits.

Disney says the thieves are after the checks people are mailing to pay their bills and any other information such as Social Security numbers and credit card account numbers.

He said that the thieves are also stealing mail from residential mailboxes.

"I'd like to say, you know, just be on the lookout. If you see people driving around checking mailboxes give us a call let us know so that we can check that out,” he said.

The case has been turned over to U.S. Postal Inspector Mike Sullivan out of Austin.

"This is a full and active investigation,” Sullivan said in a phone interview Friday.

“Usually these types of break ins are from meth addicts seeking their next fix,” he said.

The four communities in which the most recent thefts were reported were among about 80 in which post offices were broken into from December 2013 to March 2014.

Charles Hattenbach and Kathryn Hubbert of Temple were sentenced to prison in October 2014 after pleading guilty to federal charges in the massive Central Texas mail theft scheme.

Hattenback and Hubbert “stole credit cards, personal checks, business checks, money orders, postage, W-2s, tax returns, items which contained personal identifying information, cash, gift cards and other items belonging to more than 2,000 victims,” prosecutors said.

The two also schemed to defraud several financial institutions including Extraco Bank in Round Rock by endorsing and depositing stolen money orders and checks, prosecutors said.

“The defendants subsequently withdrew the deposits causing the financial institutions to lose more than $80,000,” prosecutors said.

The thefts involved more than 50,000 pieces of mail and more than $500,000 in other U.S. government property taken from post offices in about 80 cities and towns altogether, U.S. Attorney Robert Pitman said.