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2016-03-17

Alleged mail thief arrested

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

Pictured: Chelsea Martinez



Yet another alleged mail thief has been arrested in Bandera County. The latest collar came with assistance by a vigilant and security-conscious Lakehills resident, according to Bandera County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Matt King.
In an interview on Monday, March 14, King said that a number of weeks ago, a quantity of mail had been reported missing from boxes in the Lakehills area. After a resident reviewed his security video, the sheriff’s office was contacted.
Apparently the man had set up a camera on a gate to his property and the camera happened to be trained on a series of mailboxes in the distance, King said. Some video footage showed a white jeep the man did not recognize beside the mailboxes late one night. The resident brought the footage to the attention of the BCSO.
“We distributed a video grab photo of the white jeep to all local law enforcement officers,” King said. The act paid off.
While on patrol at 5:15 am, Sunday, March 13, Deputy Corey Bolt observed a white jeep stopped at a row of mailboxes. Since the vehicle resembled the one in the photo, Bolt detained the driver, Chelsea Martinez, 38, of San Antonio. After obtaining a warrant, Bolt initiated a search of Martinez’s vehicle. “The search yielded a quantity of drugs and a bunch of mail that apparently did not belong to Mr. Martinez,” King said.
Martinez was charged with felony possession of less than one gram of a Penalty Group 1 controlled substance, and misdemeanor charges that included possession of paraphernalia and possession of a dangerous drug, as well as for driving without a license.
According to King, in addition to the methamphetamine, Martinez also had a quantity of prescription drugs that had not been issued to him. “The stolen mail was turned over to the postal inspector because tampering with mail is a federal offense,” King said.
Martinez bonded out of the Bandera County Jail later that day.
Others who have been arrested for mail fraud include Brandi Adkins, formerly of Robindale Road in Bandera, and former Bandera County residents, Joseph Williams, James Taylor Jr. and Misty Cox. All cases of mail fraud are still waiting to be taken before a federal grand jury in San Antonio.
Under United States Code Section 1708, mail theft includes stealing, obtaining by deception, secreting and destroying any letter or package or attempting to do so. A letter or package is considered “mail” after being left for collection by the United States Postal Service (USPS) – whether it is in a mailbox or in a bag or container adjacent to a collection box or authorized collection point.
According to www.wklaw, anyone who steals mail could face serious punishment. Because the USPS is a federal agency, mail theft is charged as a federal offense. Anyone convicted of mail theft could face up to five years in federal prison and fines to a maximum of $250,000.
Mail theft has been reported as the leading white-collar crime in the United States, according to USLegal. Reasons for mail theft include obtaining Social Security numbers, bank statements, checks, credit cards and personal information for criminal purposes.
According to King, Martinez has an extensive criminal record, and is currently on probation resulting from a 2014 conviction in district court in San Antonio on charges of fraud and forgery.
Additionally, in 2015, Martinez found himself with three pending criminal cases, including forgery of financial instrument against the elderly and receiving stolen checks in Medina County, as well as forgery of financial instrument in Wilson and Guadalupe counties.
After Adkins’ arrest in December, King said, “We caught this alleged mail thief, but more are likely out there. We’re asking everyone to please be diligent.” His advice still stands.
The website, postalinspectors.uspis.gov, offers these tips to protect rural mail:
• Use the letter slots at the post office to mail letters, or give them to a letter carrier.
• Pick up mail promptly after delivery. Don’t leave it in the mailbox overnight.
• Don’t send cash in the mail.
• Ask your bank for “secure” checks that can’t be altered.
• Tell your post office when you’ll be out of town, so they can hold your mail until you return.
Also, citizens are advised to report all mail theft to a postal inspector by calling 877-876-2455.