Bags of undelivered mail found in a motel trash bin led to the discovery of metal traps apparently mass manufactured to fit perfectly inside street-corner postal collection boxes.
Three people were arrested in what federal investigators say was an identity theft scheme that involved more than 180 pieces of mail intercepted from people in seven Indiana cities.
Mark Shaw, a U.S. postal inspector, said the three opened stolen mail and took checks and billing-account data. The information was used to manufacture counterfeit driver’s licenses and blank checks.
The operation financed drug use and the group’s travels across the country, Shaw said.
Postal inspectors nationwide have been notified because the mail trap devices appear to be mass-manufactured, fit perfectly into postal box openings and are even postal blue.
“Someone evidently designed it so (mail customers) would drive up there and put the mail in the box and never know,” said Rich Ligon, a postal inspector.
Michael Kaufman, Mary Campbell and Melissa Mohr were being held by federal marshals Friday. They were charged with mail theft and arraignment hearings were scheduled for May 13.
A message left for Kaufman’s attorney, Clark Holsinger, was not immediately returned. It was unclear whether Campbell and Mohr had lawyers.
On April 4, officials were alerted to bags of mail in a trash bin at motel in Hammond, near Chicago. Inside were counterfeit blank personal checks and counterfeit driver’s licenses bearing photos of the three defendants under eight different names.
A receipt led investigators to the motel room where the three were staying. A subsequent raid turned up more mail, counterfeit driver’s licenses and checks and computer equipment apparently used to make the counterfeit goods.