BELL COUNTY (April 16, 2014) An investigation of a string of Central Texas post office and mailbox break-ins in which a man and woman have been charged led to the recovery of Jaws of Life stolen from three area fire departments, authorities said Wednesday.
Investigators think the life-saving extraction tools were stolen from the Moffat, Westphalia and Oakalla Volunteer Fire Departments, sheriff’s Lt. Donnie Adams said Wednesday.
Authorities also recovered various hand and power tools, welders and generators and are now attempting to match the items with theft and burglary reports.
Charles Hattenbach and Kathryn Hubbert were arrested on March 13 at a residence in Temple in connection with the series of mail thefts, the most recent of which occurred in early March at post offices in Milano, Buckholts, Rockdale, Cameron and Rogers.
They remain in federal custody.
The break-ins netted thieves in search of easy drug money hundreds of personal checks and blank money orders, according to court documents filed by U.S. Postal Inspectors.
A complaint filed in the case details thefts from outside drop boxes at post offices and post office break-ins during which post office boxes and offices were burglarized.
The thieves pried open more than 50 blue mail drop boxes and more than 30 post office boxes, and broke into desks, cabinets and safes in nine area post offices, the complaint said.
They "defeated the facilities’ exterior locks and security countermeasures; entered the secure area of the post office(s); gained access to the safe(s), resulting in loss of cash, postage, blank money orders and money order imprinters," the document said.
The string of thefts started on Jan. 9 when thieves broke into the lobby of the post office in Meridian, the complaint said.
During the next several weeks suspects conspired to break into post offices stretching from Austin to College Station to as far south as Campbellton and as far north as the Dallas-Fort Worth area, the complaint said.
Thefts were reported in Williamson, Bell and McLennan Counties, as well.
The burglaries netted thieves more than 480 blank U.S. Post Office money orders and more than 400 personal checks.
At least two of the money orders were cashed for $700 each at locations in Belton and Temple and surveillance video at the stores where they were cashed assisted agents in identifying suspects in the case.
U.S. Magistrate Jeffrey Manske issued a warrant in February that allowed postal inspectors to attach a GPS device to a pickup truck that investigators say was used in the thefts and after several days of monitoring, inspectors said they could place the truck near the sites of at least 19 different break-ins at the time the thefts occurred.
U.S. Postal Inspector Michael Sullivan said he believes the mail thieves wanted drug money and were looking for it in small towns.