Romanian Citizens Arrested and Charged with Laundering $1.4 Million in Proceeds from Jewelry Thefts and Covid Fraud
Assistant U. S. Attorney Vivian Sapthavee (619) 546-7696
NEWS RELEASE SUMMARY – June 28, 2021
SAN DIEGO – Theodore Bennett was sentenced in federal court today to 18 months in custody for mail theft and possession of stolen mail.
Bennett pleaded guilty in December 2020, admitting that on four different occasions in the summer of 2020, he pried open at least 94 post office boxes with a flathead screwdriver and prybar at post offices in San Diego and Imperial Counties. According to his plea agreement, he stole dozens of pieces of mail containing credit cards plus $6,500 in checks that belonged to individuals, business, and non-profit organizations and included Economic Impact Payments (stimulus checks) issued by the U.S. Department of Treasury.
At the time of his arrest, law enforcement agents discovered hundreds of pieces of stolen mail in Bennett’s possession, including the stolen stimulus checks. Bennett was eventually linked to at least three Post Office break-ins in the Southern District of California.
“Every American has the right to receive every piece of mail sent to them,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman. “When mail is stolen, particularly envelopes containing desperately-needed income during a pandemic, the impact on victims can be devastating. When you see someone raiding a mailbox or notice suspicious activity involving the mail, please immediately report this to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and local law enforcement. Our office will vigorously investigate and prosecute these matters with our law enforcement partners.
Grossman commended Assistant U.S. Attorney Vivian Sapthavee and former Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicholas Hernandez, as well as the law enforcement officers in multiple agencies who investigated this case.
“Postal inspectors work aggressively to combat mail theft,” said Eric Shen, Acting Inspector in Charge of the Los Angeles Division. “In collaboration with U.S. Border Patrol Agents and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, we were able to prevent countless others from being victimized by this individual, who could have caused even more financial damage and personal inconvenience.”
DEFENDANT Case Number 20-CR-2650-AJB
Theodore Bennett Age: 33 Residence: Imperial County, CA
SUMMARY OF CHARGES
Mail Theft, 18 U.S.C. §1708 (Three Counts)
Possession of Stolen Mail, 18 U.S.C. §1708 (One Count)
Maximum Penalty: Five years in prison (per count); supervised release
U.S. Postal Inspection Service
U.S. Border Patrol
U.S. Dept. of Treasury