Multiple postal collection boxes appear to have been broken into across the Wiregrass, and several residents are reporting checks written have been whitewashed and cashed for higher amounts.
Incidents are being investigated by local law enforcement and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
Headland Police Chief Mark Jones said the Headland post office is among the many collection boxes reported compromised.
“At this time we have received reports that both Dothan United States Post Offices have fallen victim to this crime, as well as Midland City. According to information my department received from the United Postal Inspector local authorities will investigate the drop box break-in as criminal mischief, and the mail being stolen will fall under federal guidelines and charges. Tampering with any mail is a federal offense,” Jones said.
Other reports indicate Newville, Pinckard and Newton post offices may have been targeted.
Jones said more reports may come forward when residents receive their latest bank statements.
According to Jones, reports indicate some of the checks reported stolen are being cashed in Georgia.
“We had one resident report a check that was originally written for $25, but cleared their bank made out to a different entity, and in the amount of $1,300. The checks are being whitewashed.”
Check washing occurs when details of a check are erased and rewritten, usually for criminal purposes.
Headland resident James Lynn said he and his wife are victims of the current collection box crime.
“We wrote a check for a small amount, and the next thing we knew the check cleared our bank for the amount of $2,900. “This is scary. We have been told it will be days before we get money put back into our account.”
Tony Robinson, a United Stated Postal Inspector for the state of Alabama, said the Postal Inspection Service is currently investigating.
“We want everyone to know this is a federal crime, and federal regulations will apply, including prison time and fines,” Robinson said. “Having collection boxes broken into is not something that happens frequently, but it does happen. I encourage everyone who uses the collection boxes to look at the collection times. If the mail has been collected for the day, do not place your mail in the box to remain there overnight. I urge everyone to go inside their post office and place their mail in a drop box located inside a secure location.”
Robinson urged everyone who utilizes the collection boxes listed in the targeted areas to pay close attention to their bank statements for the month of September. No exact time of when the thefts occurred has been reported.
The United Stated Postal Inspection Service does offer a reward of up to $10,000 for information leading to the arrest of anyone who tampers with United States mail.
“If anyone has any information regarding this crime, I urge you to contact the U.S. Postal Inspection Branch by phone at 877-876-2455. I also want the communities to know we are working on ways to improve the collection boxes by making the mail safer," Robinson said.