Thieves target mailboxes with USPS key in San Francisco neighborhoods

U.S. Postal Service Inspectors are looking for a pair of thieves in San Francisco who've been targeting mailboxes in buildings from Japantown to Cow Hollow to Fort Mason using what authorities believe is a USPS master key.

Officials are not releasing many details regarding the investigation but reportedly the mailbox bandits' key fits into USPS locks in the 94109 zip code.

Caxton Rhodes lives in a building on Van Ness Avenue where the burglars struck three times earlier this month.

Rhodes showed us surveillance video which clearly shows a man and a woman entering a lobby, accessing several mailboxes and making off with letters containing everything from credit cards to personal bank statements to passports.

"I was amazed they were totally relaxed they walked in," said Rhodes. "[They] knew exactly what they were doing especially when they're carrying- they both have cups of coffee!"

Rhodes says the burglars swiped a credit card from his box that he hadn't activated yet. "These guys had stolen it on Thursday, well, on Saturday, they charged like $5000 in charges to local businesses," said Rhodes.

"I think everyone feels violated that these people can have access our building and the mail."

The key is a physical key which fits into a keyhole in the intercom entry system, allowing the thieves to buzz themselves into the building. It also opens the mail bank door, garnering the burglars’ access to individual mailboxes.

"The mere possession of one of those keys is a federal felony potential penalty is up to 10 years in federal prison," said U.S Postal Service Inspector Jeff Fitch. "The theft of the mail is up to five years in federal prison, up to $250,000 fine."

The thieves targeted Rhodes' building on August 4, 7, and 18 between midnight and 6am. Officials say at least two other buildings in the area have been hit, SFPD believes the number could be higher since often times there is no sign of theft, except for missing mail and packages.

So how did the thieving duo obtain the key?

"We've been told that it's maybe sold to a disgruntled USPS employee or it was stolen," said Rhodes.

Rhodes says U.S. Postal Service Inspectors have known about the problem for at least 10 days but so far no locks have been changed, a process he says he was told will take $200,000 to fix.

Rhodes is hoping investigators will be able to close in on the thieves soon, as he and his neighbors feel vulnerable.

The male suspect is described as a 40-50 year old Caucasian with black hair receding at the hair line, pulled back in a ponytail. He can be seen in the video wearing a black leather jacket and jeans. The female suspect is described as White, 35-55 years old with red hair, dressed in a black jacket, and black pants.

If you live in a multi-unit building in San Francisco and have noticed missing mail or packages, you are urged to contact the USPS's 24 hour hotline at 877-876-2455.