Stolen USPS master keys pose continuing threat to Chicago apartment, condo owners – NBC Chicago
In the rain, sleet or snow, especially at night, they carry what appear to be US postal keys, but they are not postal carriers. They are thieves who use real and counterfeit keys to steal people’s mail and identity.
For a year and a half, the Chicago police sergeant. Patrick Barker said the 19th Police District receives calls about stolen mail almost every day. The 19th district covers Lincoln Square, Uptown, Sheridan Park, North Center, Ravenswood, Lakeview, Wrigleyville, Boystown, Roscoe Village, Southport Corridor, Sheffield & DePaul and the Lincoln Park neighborhoods.
“It’s so easy to do. Most of the time the victim doesn’t even know something happened,” said Sgt. Barker. “We find out when someone was told they had been the victim of credit card fraud or the bank alerted them that they were missing money.”
On the verge of retirement after 30 years of service, Sgt. Baker said, “What they do is simple. There is no technology involved. They use a pry tool or a fax key that allows them to enter these places and use the same key to get into everyone’s mailboxes so they don’t go to houses, but they go to condominiums and apartments because there is a big bank of mailboxes that they can use and take it all. “
Recently, Chicago Police issued community alerts after several high-rise buildings in Ravenswood, Lincoln Park, Uptown and Lincoln Square were hit by mail and parcel thieves. The alert described the offenders as two men and two women working as a team.
Sgt. Barker said many burglary teams are mixed with women known as joggers because they pose as runners during the day, but actually wrap apartment buildings for packages and mail to be stolen. the night.
Aliyah Massari was arrested by Chicago Police in February 2020 in the West Loop for a routine traffic stop. Chicago police reports indicate that Massari was in possession of two master postal keys, seven other sets of mail keys, and a package of mail with Social Security, credit and debit cards. Massari is in police custody and is due to return in August for burglary. Massari has pleaded not guilty.
NBC 5 is first investigating exposed thieves using US Postal Keys stolen before COVID-19 in February 2020. Guy Spinello, then Director of the North Center at Associated Locksmiths of America, showed us how postal keys are easy to make or copy.
“Nobody wants to move forward because they know they have a serious problem and they don’t want to admit it,” Spinello said.
In August 2020, the Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Postal Service released an audit report on arrow key management controls. The main findings of the report revealed that postal management controls on primary postal keys, known as arrow keys, were ineffective.
The report also found that the number of arrow keys in circulation is unknown and that the keys are not properly reported lost or stolen. Additionally, the Postal Service has not limited the number of replacement keys, so the number of keys floating around in major cities, including Chicago, is unclear.
“The Inspectorate and our postal service partners are putting measures in place to limit the ability of criminals to obtain these keys,” said Spencer Block, a postal inspector in Chicago.
We asked what his message to thieves was with these keys.
“We know you might be out there and if you commit crimes you will be held accountable. Federal crimes are not something to sneeze at. It’s not a slap in the face. It’s a federal time. seriously, “Added Postal Inspector block.
A typical example is DeAngelo Ashford. Chicago Police said Ashford appeared to be wearing a postal jacket and had an actual mailing key he tried to use in a South Loop apartment building in February 2020, but the federal government apparently set a trap. Although Block did not go into details of the tools used in the puncture operation, Ashford’s key did get stuck in the lock. As he struggled to free him, residents called Chicago police.
“Well, this key was apparently very valuable to him, so he contacted a locksmith to help him get the key,” Chicago Police Detective Robert Rose said. “That’s what caught the eye. Someone saw two people digging into this box trying to get something.
The police arrived shortly after the locksmith. Ashford was arrested and pleaded guilty to possession of a stolen postal key. It is a federal offense that can result in up to 10 years in prison. He will be sentenced in August.
“He screwed up. His arrogance reached him,” Postal Inspector Block said.
How to protect yourself against mail theft
Chicago Police said residents can protect themselves by taking a few simple precautionary measures. Residents must empty their mail and collect their packages every day. Many victims of mail theft don’t realize their identities have been stolen until false accusations emerge weeks later.
Postal Inspector Block recommends that people sign up for a free postal service called Informed Delivery.
“He sends out an email every morning saying you get that mail or that piece so you know what to expect when you get home.”
If it’s not in your mailbox, call the postal service to report it before you get the bill for someone else’s shopping spree, he said.