RIVERSIDE, California– Two Corona residents were arrested this morning by Postal Inspectors on federal conspiracy and mail theft-related offenses for a scheme that resulted in them using a counterfeit Postal Service key to access 300 mailboxes at a Corona apartment complex and steal mail. A third defendant is currently a fugitive being sought by federal authorities.
Today's arrests are the result of federal grand jury indictment filed on Wednesday. The two taken into custody today are Bernie Martinez, 23, and Kammi Leigh Vestesen, 24. These defendants are expected to be arraigned on the three-count indictment this afternoon in United States District Court in Riverside.
The third defendant named in the indictment – Hector Mendez, 29, of Corona – is being sought by authorities.
According to the indictment, Martinez and Vestesen entered the mail room of the Sierra Del Oro apartment complex on April 10 and used a counterfeit Postal Service key to open resident mailboxes. All three defendants allegedly went to the same mailroom on April 12, used the counterfeit key to open mailboxes and left the premises with a trash bag full of mail.
The indictment specifically charges all three defendants will conspiracy, mail theft and possession of a counterfeit United States Postal Service key.
“Mail theft is becoming an increasing problem in our community,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “This crime is frequently a precursor to identity theft, fraud, and drug crimes. Protecting the integrity of the postal system from this type of theft is therefore important to preventing an escalation of criminal activity.”
Postal Inspector in Charge Robert Wemyss said, “The United States Postal Inspection Service will continue to bring violators to justice to secure the integrity of the U.S. Mail. Protecting the ability to use the mail in a safe and secure manner is at the core of the Postal Inspection Service's mission.”
“Mail theft and other property crimes are a rising problem and trend in this region,” said Corona Police Department Chief of Police Michael Abel. “We take these matters seriously and truly appreciate the joint cooperation in this prosecution. It's important that we hold suspects such as these accountable for their actions.”
An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.
The charges of conspiracy and mail theft each carry a statutory maximum sentence of five years in federal prison. The charge of unlawful possession of counterfeit postal key carries a statutory maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.
This case was investigated by the United States Postal Inspection Service and the Corona Police Department.
USAO – California, Central Updated May 2, 2016
Central District of California DOJ / 19-091 / April 29, 2016