May 20-KETTERING - Four men were arrested at a Kettering apartment early Thursday in connection with Forrer Boulevard post office outdoor mailbox thefts in which a stolen key was used, police said.
The arrests came about 2 a.m. as part of investigations by the U.S. Postal Service and local police into thefts - many including checks - from outdoor drop boxes involving at least seven post offices in Beavercreek, Dayton, Kettering and Washington Twp., police said.
Keith D. Calahan, 23, of Dayton; Leonard A. Blackstone, 19, of Kettering; Jeff Weaver, 22, of Centerville; and Amond N. Turner, 22, of Trotwood; were arrested in the 3200 block of Gracemore Avenue on preliminary theft and receiving stolen property charges, Kettering Police Chief Chip Protsman said.
Calahan was also booked on resisting arrest and obstructing official business.
The four were being held Thursday in Kettering and Montgomery County jails, Protsman said. But investigators believe more people are involved in the thefts and they are encouraging residents to not use outdoor mail drop boxes at this time.
"Instead, wait until business hours, go inside and give them directly to an employee," Protsman said.
Police are asking people who used the Forrer post office outdoor drop boxes between 5 p.m. Wednesday and 1:30 a.m. Thursday to call Detective Vince Mason at 937-296-2583.
The suspects were arrested about 1:50 a.m. for thefts completed by using a key reportedly stolen from a postal worker, Protsman said.
It is not clear how they got the key. Investigators also believe there is another key being used to steal mail.
A postal service key that unlocks "all Dayton-area mailboxes" was stolen recently, according to a May 14 Dayton police incident report. Following the key theft, post office drop boxes in Beavercreek, Dayton, Kettering and Washington Twp. were all hit since Saturday, according to police.
The thefts are happening "in this entire region and I'm guessing across the country," Protsman said.
"We know from other incidents, they steal checks, they alter the checks and then cash those. So, it's a fraud also," he added.
Protsman said Kettering police "have not discussed" with USPS officials any possible security changes at area post offices. The postal inspectors' office in Cincinnati has not addressed questions by the Dayton Daily News involving keys or possible security changes.
Outdoor drop boxes typically are not monitored by cameras, according to the authorities.
Thousands of dollars in checks have been reported stolen from outdoor post office mailboxes in Montgomery County, Kettering and Riverside this year.
A rash of thefts was reported last weekend in Kettering, Dayton and Beavercreek. In Beavercreek, four drop boxes were found open with "mail totes" nearby, according to police.
The Montgomery County Sheriff's Office said it has received reports of 26 check thefts from outdoor mailboxes since February - many of them involving the Washington Twp. post office on Paragon Road ― including one Monday, Capt. Mike Brem said.
In Kettering and Riverside instances reported this week, the amounts of stolen checks later cashed by parties they were not originally issued to totaled nearly $75,000, police said.
The Dayton police report mentioning a stolen key was filed after a post office manager notified authorities at 2:30 a.m. Saturday that he discovered the drive-up mailbox was open at 1111 E. Fifth St. building.
The post office manager said "that several mailboxes have been opened around different locations in the city since the key has been stolen," the police report states.
The early Saturday morning call to Dayton police came less than an hour after Beavercreek and Kettering law enforcement reported mail thefts from drop boxes outside post offices in those cities, documents show.
Beavercreek police saw at least one person flee the Dayton-Xenia Road post office in a minivan at about 1:45 a.m. Saturday, records show. An officer was unable to catch the vehicle after a short chase a police report states.