DELRAY BEACH — Using a postal key stolen from a mail carrier, five Delray Beach men gained access to locked mailboxes across Palm Beach County to commit thousands of thefts of money, personal information and even firearms, city police said in announcing their arrests this month.
Investigators said the men used the key to steal checks from the mailboxes, then altered them or used them as templates to print counterfeit ones that were deposited into people’s bank accounts.
A search of the men’s residences revealed more than 2,000 stolen checks, more than 200 fraudulent bank accounts the men had created and five stolen firearms, according to a statement Delray Beach police released last week.
The arrests come amid rising reports of robberies of mail carriers nationwide. One means of doing that is to target the keys that open drop boxes, like the kind seen at shopping centers and on street corners, and community mail boxes, like those seen in neighborhoods.
Officers on Sept. 11 arrested Dario Cadet, 23, Billy Cadet, 21, and 20-year-olds Robbie Cadet, Schan Padovany, and Jordan St. Val on charges of organizing a scheme to defraud, criminal use of personal identification and grand theft.
During a court hearing at the Palm Beach County Jail, County Judge Danielle Sherriff assigned Robbie Cadet a public defender and set his bail at $10,000. He remained in custody as of Tuesday morning, jail records show.
His co-defendants posted bond amounts ranging from $8,000 to $40,000. Court records did not indicate whether any of the co-defendants has hired an attorney.
Robberies of mail carriers on rise nationally, postal officials say
Authorities say postal keys have become highly sought after by thieves in recent years as they can be used to open both community mailboxes and blue mail-drop boxes.
“We have had a few instances of robberies of mail carriers for their postal keys,” said Blanca Alvarez, spokesperson for the Miami Division of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, which serves as the law-enforcement arm of the U.S. Postal Service.
“The primary motive for that is because people want to steal the mail because they want to take items of value from the mail.”
The Postal Service reported a rising number of mail-carrier robberies nationally, listing 305 such incidents from Oct. 1, 2022, to March 31, the first half of the current fiscal year. It reported 412 robberies during the 2022 fiscal year, from Oct. 1, 2021, to Sept. 30, 2022.
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It is a federal offense for someone who is not a postal service employee, and who is not on duty, to be in possession of a postal key, Alvarez said.
“Postal keys in general are the possession of the Postal Service and nobody should have it on them if they’re not working,” she said,
In January, law enforcement arrested two people on federal charges, alleging they participated in a string of robberies and attempted robberies of mail carriers in Palm Beach and Broward counties. Teron and Tira Bethel are awaiting trial as they face charges of robbery with a dangerous weapon of a U.S. Postal employee; assaulting, resisting or impeding certain federal employees; and unlawful possession of a U.S. Postal Service mail key.
A federal complaint did not specify their relationship to each other. In May, the U.S. Postal Service and the Postal Inspection Service held a joint briefing in Congress to discuss efforts to protect mail carriers.
Residents urged not to let sensitive documents sit in mailboxes
The safety improvements will include installing 12,000 high-security blue collection boxes nationwide and replacing the 49,000 arrow locks with electronic ones, officials said.
Federal and local law-enforcement officials urge residents to pick up delivered mail as quickly as possible, and avoid leaving sensitive documents sitting in mail collection boxes overnight or over the weekend. Checks and financial documents should be brought inside the Post Office.
Mail tampering and fraud should immediately be reported to the Postal Inspection Service.
‘I know that customers and carriers have been frustrated with the amount of robberies and the mail theft that has been occurring,” Alvarez said. “The Inspection Service has been investigating and the Delray Beach arrests are an example of the work that we’re doing with our local law enforcement partners stop these criminals.”
Police: One person facing charges detailed operation during interview
According to Delray Beach police, Robbie Cadet was arrested in February on unrelated burglary charges and an investigator requested to speak to him about the mail thefts.
He identified Dario and Billy Cadet as his cousins, who lived together at an address on Southwest 14th Avenue, and told investigators that St. Val and another person shared a residence on Northwest Fifth Court in Delray Beach.
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Robbie explained methods employed by the group to obtain postal keys, steal and collect mail. He alleged that Billy Cadet washed stolen checks using the chemical acetone and Q-tips. He described witnessing St. Val use a computer and printer to create counterfeit checks.
Police investigators obtained a search warrant for the Northwest Fifth Court address, where they found a postal service arrow key, and more than 1,600 stolen or counterfeit checks, the arrest report said.
City detectives reportedly found at least one postal arrow key, a universal key that opens a region of collection boxes. The case may result in additional arrests, police said.
Tips to prevent mail theft
The Postal Service has several suggestions to help prevent mail theft and harm to mail carriers:
Customers are encouraged to report stolen mail as soon as possible by submitting an online complaint to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service at www.uspis.gov/report or calling 877-876-2455.
Don’t let mail sit in your mailbox. Retrieve it daily.
Don’t drop mail into a collection box at night. Take it into a post office.
You can sign up for the Informed Delivery program and the Postal Service will send you an online preview of what mail and packages are coming.
If you are going out of town, sign up to have your mail held at the post office.
Julius Whigham II is a criminal justice and public safety reporter for The Palm Beach Post. You can reach him at email@example.com and follow him on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, at @JuliusWhigham. Help support our work: Subscribe today.
This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Mail theft in Delray Beach: Five face charges after postal key stolen
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