Foresthill man arrested on serial mail-theft charges
Were you hit by mail theft?
Here’s a list of Placer County streets or locations where mail boxes were broken into from Jan. 15 through March 25:
Florence Lane, Porter Lane, Bowman Road, Lynn Lane, Mill Pond Road, Shale Ridge Lane, Heritage Oak Place, Luther Road, Pineridge Road, Gin Mill Road, Bald Hill Road, Borland Avenue, Industrial Drive, Mount Vernon Road, Wise Road, Bell Bar Road, Twin Pines Trail, Sunny Oak, Dry Creek Road, Ophir Road, Alpine Drive, Magra Road, Hummingbird Hill Road, Placer Hills Road, South Auburn, Jans Lane, Canyon Way and Placer Hills Road.
Federal and Placer County authorities have arrested a Foresthill man they believe is responsible for more than 20 mailbox thefts in the Auburn, Colfax and Foresthill areas since January.
The suspect – 56-year-old Richard Lee Gray – was arrested this past week and charged in U.S. District Court in Sacramento.
Gray was being held on a five-count indictment that includes charges of destruction of letter boxes or mail, possession of stolen mail, possession of account numbers and other identification of others, and possession of methamphetamine.
Postal authorities arrested Gray after an investigation that may have received its best lead from a video surveillance camera installed at a business on Alpine Drive and Magra Road, northeast of Colfax.
A man was seen on camera forcibly prying open the backs of mail receptacles in an attempt to steal mail. According to the affidavit accompanying charges Wednesday, the video footage showed a tall, heavyset man take mail from the box and leave in a 1990s beige-colored Honda that was missing a passenger-side hubcap.
The method of opening boxes, the man’s appearance in the video and the condition of the Honda provided leads that led to the door of Gray’s mother’s mobilehome in Foresthill.
A federal search warrant was executed Tuesday at Gray’s residence in the 22200-block of Foresthill Road.
According to a criminal complaint filed by Postal Inspector Dustin Warner, mail was recovered from the residence, including pieces from a Locksley Lane theft. Gray was arrested driving a beige Honda – missing a right rear hubcap like the one in the surveillance video – near the residence.
More stolen mail was found in the car, which was registered to Gray’s mother. Also discovered were pry bars and burglary tools, the affidavit said. The other mailboxes had also been pried open from the back.
“Gray possessed over 50 items of stolen U.S. Mail from more than 50 different postal customer victims,” Warner stated.
A search found a gram of methamphetamine in Gray’s pocket, Warner stated. The affidavit later said that Gray admitted to prying open mail boxes and stealing mail, then trading the mail for methamphetamine.
Gray, who is 6-feet-2-inches and weighs 240 pounds, also admitted he was the man in the March 25 surveillance video at Alpine Drive depicted stealing mail and damaging the mailbox.
Court documents revealed that the arrest wasn’t the first for Gray on mail-theft-related charges. According to the affidavit, Gray was convicted in 2001 for possession of stolen mail.
“Gray confessed to stealing, repeatedly, U.S. Mail from U.S. Mail receptacles throughout the county of Placer and specifically throughout Auburn,” Warner stated.
Troy Dickinson, postal inspector spokesman, said that Gray remained in custody Friday on a no-bail, federal hold. A single mail-theft conviction could bring a five-year prison term and $250,000 fine, he said. After his conviction in Riverside County in 2001, Gray served four months.
The investigation is ongoing into the case, Dickinson said.
Dickinson added that people with information on mail-theft cases can call the toll-free reporting line at (877) 876-2455 or fill out a report online at postalinspectors.com. There is a reward of up to $10,000 for information leading to a mail-theft conviction.
In Auburn, Borland Avenue businesses using a mail receptacle were victimized during the wave of thefts. Mark Gibson, owner of Servicenter Radiator, said the back of the communal box was pried open about a month ago.
“When I looked through the slot, I could see the street,” he said. “I was upset and about five other businesses were affected.”
Gibson said he lost one piece of mail but that he’s been hit in the past by identity theft and knows it can have a major impact.
“It’s a big issue and a good thing they caught someone, although I haven’t heard of any of the other businesses being hurt yet,” he said.