MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. (KTVU) - Police in Mountain View bust a mail theft ring arresting seven people. Investigators said the suspects used counterfeit master keys to steal mail and packages from apartment complexes. The seven people are all from the South Bay and are facing federal mail theft charges. Police said dozens of people were victimized.
“We do live in a very affluent area,” said Katie Nelson of Mountain View Police. “I’m sure thieves thought they would score something in the mail just because of where we are in the Bay Area.”
Police said the uptick in burglaries started back in August. The suspects targeted complexes on San Antonio Road, West Camino Real and Castro Street. There, residents need a key card to gain access to their mail.
“What they would do is follow people into an apartment complex,” said Nelson. “They would walk in and wait for them to go away and they were using counterfeit U.S. postal mail keys.”
Police said the thieves would loot the mailbox banks, fill up an empty duffel bag and leave in a matter of minutes. Surveillance video helped nab the suspects and good police work.
Early Saturday, police arrested three people after first spotting a Gold Mercedes tied to a prior home burglary. Inside the car, they found shaved and counterfeit keys, stolen mail and stolen credit cards.
“We took a lot of care,” said Nelson. “We had a lot of concern around these cases because we were seeing so much of it. Our officers were very much on high alert to know what to look for.”
Police are now in the process of contacting victims. Kristen Hardwick who lives at Elan Apartments may be one of them. Hardwick is still tracking down her Christmas present from her sister.
“It’s definitely a possibility,” said Hardwick. “That wasn't on my list. I just thought it was delays getting things forwarded, typos somewhere. I didn't consider theft.”
“It does seem like a pretty easy target especially when you have a multitude of packages being dropped off,” said Shawn Hoyer of Mountain View.
Hoyer said he received delivery confirmations for six packages last month but never got them. Luckily, he got most of the items replaced but is now taking preventative measures.
“If I know I’m going to be traveling,” said Hoyer. “I don't order anything unless I know I’m going to be home when it gets delivered.”
Police remind residents to keep an eye out for suspicious people around mailbox banks and to check their mail daily. Besides mail theft charges, some of the suspects face identity theft and drug paraphernalia charges.