A Williamsburg mail carrier remains behind bars after allegedly stealing mail belonging to several customers on his postal route, including several debit cards and their corresponding PIN numbers, according to the Whitley County Sheriff’s Department.
Alexander M. Johnson, 24, of 63 Nikki Lane, was arrested about 12:14 p.m. on Dec. 14 at the Williamsburg Post Office and charged with 18 counts of theft of mail matter.
Johnson had worked as a contract mail carrier at the Williamsburg Post Office for about two years, and delivered mail to residents on Watts Creek, Brown’s Creek and the areas along Highway 92E between Williamsburg and Pineville.
Johnson pleaded not guilty to the charges during his arraignment Monday afternoon before Whitley District Judge Fred White.
White scheduled a Dec. 27 preliminary hearing in the case for Dec. 27, and ordered that Johnson continue to be held in the Whitley County Detention Center in lieu of a $7,500 cash bond.
Sheriff Colan Harrell said the case started out with several reports of identity theft starting in early October.
“In other words, someone’s debit card was being used and they didn’t even know it,” Harrell said.
Harrell said that the perpetrator would go to the ATM machine at a bank late at night, cover their face, and withdraw about $200 from the victims’ bank account per transaction. Authorities aren’t sure yet a total of how much was taken.
“This was done many times. We have worked many cases. I don’t know how many we have, maybe eight or 10,” Harrell said.
Deputies even staked out bank ATM machines late at night on multiple occasions hoping to catch a suspect, but apparently didn’t have the right banks under surveillance on any particular night, he said.
Harrell said that debit cards are routinely mailed to customers with the corresponding PIN numbers being sent separately a few days later as a security precaution.
“This kind of makes you think who would be doing this,” Harrell said. “We went through a number of these such cases and thought that it could be the mail carrier.”
Harrell said that sheriff’s deputies and U.S. Postal Inspector Josh Roth interviewed Johnson extensively last Wednesday, but he denied having any involvement in the theft.
Police also searched Johnson’s home and his Chevrolet Trailblazer SUV that he used to deliver mail.
“In the vehicle, we found six debit cards, four envelopes, which had contained debit cards, and an assortment of other mail matter,” Harrell noted. “At his residence we found one other debit card.”
In addition to stolen debit cards, Harrell said that deputies also believe Johnson stole a $100 Visa reward card, coupons, and even a Christmas card.
“My only thought was that maybe it had a little cash in it. I don’t know. We have not contacted the victim on that yet,” Harrell added Thursday afternoon. “It is untelling what he got. The debit cards seemed to be his main interest.”
Harrell said that he doesn’t know how many customers that Johnson delivered mail to on a regular basis, but that it was probably in the hundreds.
Harrell said that there could be additional victims that police are unaware of, and he asks anyone that lived along Johnson’s mail route that had debit cards stolen or were victims of identity theft in the last few months to contact his office at (606) 549-6006 during regular business hours or (606) 549-6017 after regular business hours.
Harrell said that he suspects additional victims will come forward.
He noted Thursday that authorities haven’t had time to contact all the known victims in the case yet.
According to Johnson’s arrest citation, mail was found in his vehicle belonging to Sarah Vanover, Julia H. Moses, Bobbie Brown, Cheyenne A. Canada, Donna Rhodes, Allyson E. O’Kuma, Cassandra Harmon, Xerxes Bowlin, Glenda Young, Ronnie Petrey, Mathew N. Sulfridge, Amber M. Sumner, Steven J. Moses, Mr. and Mrs. Minton Morton Family, Jimmy Hoffman, Leonard Tanksley and an envelope that was tore open from Karen S. Cox.
Harrell noted it is rough on people, who have had debit cards stolen and that it creates a lot of inconvenience for them.
“The banks help, but the victims still go through a lot trying to straighten these issues out. Anybody who’s ever been a victim of identity theft or financial fraud knows how upsetting, frustrating and time consuming this can be. We’re glad to have made an arrest. Our department put a lot of time into this investigation, months worth. We’re continuing the investigation and hope to help anybody else who was affected,” Harrell added.
“It creates havoc for the card owner.”
Harrell said that Johnson doesn’t appear to have a drug problem, which is common in many theft cases, but he said you never know.
It is too early to tell whether federal charges will be pursued against Johnson.
Harrell said that it will be up to the United States Postal Inspector and the Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Cincinnati District.
Deputy Cody Harrell is leading the investigation. Sheriff Harrell, Chief Deputy Tim Baker, Sgt. Todd Shelley and United States Postal Inspector Josh Roth assisted with the investigation.