OAKLAND — Federal officials are now offering $150,000 in reward money for information leading to the arrests of people who target mail carriers, following a surge in such cases in the Bay Area.
The sizable increase in reward money increase comes as authorities announced charges of mail theft against two East Bay residents, bringing to 10 the total number of Bay Area residents recently charged with crimes involving the postal service or its workers.
At a Tuesday press conference at the Oakland federal building, U.S. Attorney Ismail J. Ramsey of the Northern District of California said the latest people charged are a 19-year-old Antioch resident and a 33-year-old Oakland resident found with stolen keys to help them steal mail. Four others who were indicted, including an American Canyon man, were charged with unlawful possession of mail keys, Ramsey said.
At least one of the 10 suspects involved in the mail crimes has been indicted on charges of attempted murder of a postal employee and using, carrying and discharging a gun in connection with a violent crime, Ramsey said. He added that three suspects have been charged with robbery of a mail carrier; one with breaking and entering a federal carrier building and one with possession of stolen mail and mail theft.
The indictments come following what Ramsey called “a growing problem” of violence against postal workers. Edward Fletcher, a 22-year mail carrier worker who represents the Greater East Bay Branch for the National Association of Letter Carriers, echoed the sentiment.
“I’ve never seen it this bad,” Fletcher said. “I’ve got carriers with post-traumatic stress disorder from having guns stuck in their faces, one who has been out of work for months.”
U.S. Postal Inspector in Charge Rafael Nunez said the $100,000 increase in reward money for information leading to the arrest and conviction of a person who robs or assaults a postal worker is a step to show that the plight of mail carriers has not gone unnoticed.
“I hope this occasion reassures you that all the good people of the country are on your side,” he said, speaking directly to mail carriers. “Every federal agent; every federal prosecutor; every local law enforcement official; every business owner, large and small; every resident who gets mail at home wants you to be able to deliver safely the mail and go home unharmed to your families.”
Nunez’s comments come two days before the union representing mail carriers plans to hold a rally to draw attention to recent assaults and robberies of its members. The “Enough is Enough” rally is scheduled for 5 p.m. Thursday outside the downtown Oakland post office at 201 13th St.
Ramsey said suspects have been increasingly trying to get their hands on mail keys in order to raid large mail boxes and collect information to commit crimes like identity theft and credit card theft.
According to Ramsey, the Antioch suspect is alleged to have participated in an armed robbery in Antioch and another in San Francisco and used mail keys to steal mail from blue mailboxes. He faces as much as 10 years in federal prison if convicted of possessing the keys and 25 years for the armed robberies.
The Oakland resident is accused of having stolen keys on him during two separate incidents that occurred in June 2023, Ramsey said. In one of them, authorities said he had a key to gain access to a residential complex’s mailbox in the Presidio in San Francisco. He’s looking at a maximum of 15 years in prison if convicted.
Fletcher said he has tracked 31 assaults on mail carriers since February in the region he represents, which runs from Fairfield to Livermore to Fremont. He said some of those assaults have included guns and that he’s “not including all the smash-and-grabs” in which perpetrators bust the windows of mail trucks and take the items inside.
“This is a problem that has increased over the years,” Ramsey said. “We’re talking about the delivery of the mail and people doing their job, and clearly the concern among letter carriers about their safety. It’s something we’re focused on and going to make a priority.”