Federal Authorities Target Inland Empire Mail Thieves
RIVERSIDE, California –The United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) has arrested six Inland Empire residents who are charged in indictments that allege federal crimes related to mail theft. The six arrested over the past two weeks are among 11 defendants who have been charged by a federal grand jury as the result of an operation in which Postal Inspectors recovered approximately 1,167 pieces of stolen mail.
Most of the defendants are charged with using checks and personal information stolen from the mail to commit financial crimes, including bank fraud and aggravated identity theft.
The 11 defendants are charged in seven indictments that were returned by a federal grand jury in Riverside over the past month. The cases were announced today after Postal Inspectors yesterday arrested two of the defendants. Three of the defendants are already in state custody on unrelated charges, and federal prosecutors will seek to have those three brought into federal court. The USPIS is continuing to search for two fugitives.
In one of the cases, Robert Kujaun Thomas, 40, of Hemet, is charged with possessing more than 850 pieces of stolen mail belonging to hundreds of victims who reside in at least 17 Inland Empire cities. Thomas was also charged with possessing stolen credit and debit cards with the intent to commit fraud. Thomas was arrested on Tuesday and is expected to make his initial court appearance this afternoon in United States District Court in Riverside. If convicted of the two counts, Thomas faces a statutory maximum sentence of 15 years in federal prison.
“The recent rise in mail theft in the Inland Empire poses a serious problem for the community which relies on the mail for the full range of business and personal matters,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “The cases being announced today demonstrate my office’s commitment to combatting this problem, and we will continue to partner with the United States Postal Inspection Service and local law enforcement to see that criminals who steal mail in the Inland Empire are punished.”
“This operation is a fine example of law enforcement partnerships working together to protect the citizens of the Inland Empire from mail theft,” said Inspector in Charge Robert Wemyss. “The U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the United States Attorney’s Office are aggressively pursuing and prosecuting individuals that attempt to target America’s mail stream for criminal gain. Mail theft is a federal offense and that means federal prison time. The U.S. Postal Inspection Service remains vigilant in protecting the U.S. Mail with traditional and innovative law enforcement efforts.”
In addition to Thomas, 10 other defendants were charged in the grand jury indictments. They are:
• Kimberly Ann Hernandez, 34, of Fontana; Julian Tapia, 26, of Colton; and Anthony Garcia Jr., 22, of Fontana, who are charged with possessing approximately 281 pieces of stolen mail and attempting to cash or deposit altered checks totaling more than $9,000. All three defendants are charged in an eight-count indictment with conspiracy to commit bank fraud, at least one count of bank fraud, conspiracy to commit mail theft, and possession of stolen mail. Hernandez was arrested on July 26 and was subsequently ordered to stand trial on September 13. Tapia and Garcia were both arrested yesterday. If convicted on all counts, each defendant faces a statutory maximum sentence of at least 70 years in federal prison.
• Hubert Salvador Salazar Jr., 25, of San Bernardino, who is charged in a four-count indictment with cashing and depositing altered checks stolen from the U.S. Mail – as well as counterfeit checks made with information obtained from stolen mail – into his own checking account. The total value of the fraudulent checks discussed in the indictment is $5,497. Salazar is charged with four counts of bank fraud. Each count carries a maximum possible sentence of 30 years in federal prison. Salazar is currently a fugitive being sought by authorities.
• Mark Alexander Gonzales, 30, of Homeland, who is charged with cashing stolen checks, making purchases using a stolen credit card and causing losses of nearly $4,000. Gonzales is charged with seven counts of bank fraud and one count of unauthorized use of an access device (a credit card). Gonzalez was arrested on July 25, later pleaded not guilty and was ordered to stand trial on September 27. If convicted, Gonzalez could be sentenced to decades in federal prison.
• Alfred Zamorano Jr., 41, of Rialto, and Alicia Ann Palomares, 33, also of Rialto, who are charged with burglarizing the Calimesa Post Office by using a “fishing device” to steal mail placed in the outgoing mailbox. A two-count indictment that charges both defendants with conspiracy and mail theft also alleges that they broke into several post office boxes located inside the post office. Zamorano is currently in state custody, and Palomares was arrested on Tuesday. If convicted of both counts, each defendant faces a statutory maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison.
• Pricila Mayora Deleon, 28, of Moreno Valley, who is charged with fraudulently depositing stolen checks into bank accounts and possessing more than a dozen items of stolen mail. Deleon, who is currently in state custody, is charged with three counts of bank fraud, aggravated identity theft and possession of stolen mail. If she is convicted on all five counts, she could be sentenced to as much as 97 years in federal prison.
• William Jason Leonard, 37, of Hemet, and Michael Joseph Tomassacci, 39, of San Jacinto, who are each charged in a 16-count indictment with conspiracy, wire fraud, possession of stolen mail and aggravated identity theft. Leonard additionally is charged with bank fraud. These defendants allegedly used fraudulent identities and hundreds of fraudulently obtained bank account numbers to create checks that they used in a scheme to purchase merchandise at retail stores with the intent to later return the merchandise for cash. If convicted of all counts, each defendant would face potential sentences of decades in federal prison. Leonard is currently in state custody, and Tomassacci is a fugitive being sought by authorities.
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 seven indictments announced today are the result of investigations conducted by the United States Postal Inspection Service. The Riverside County Sheriff’s Department and the Hemet Police Department provided substantial assistance.
Members of the public who may have information about either of the two fugitives are encouraged to contact the U.S. Postal Inspection Service at 1-877-876-2455 (select Option 2) reference case number 2026956 (Tomassacci) or case number 2137584 (Salazar).
These cases are being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Bilal A. Essayli (six of the cases) and Tritia Yuen (the Leonard/Tomassacci indictment) of the Riverside Branch Office.