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Hagerstown man accused of stealing mail could face federal charges

Mail removed from 11 boxes in Hagerstown area

July 17, 2012|By DON AINES | dona@herald-mail.com

A Hagerstown man has been charged by the Washington County Sheriff’s Office with stealing mail from mailboxes at homes and businesses, and also could face federal charges, according to a sheriff’s office news release.

Benjamin David Hood, 29, of 11902 Indian Lane, has been charged with 11 counts of theft under $100 and one count of theft scheme under $1,000, police said. He was released on his own recognizance, police said.

There was no evidence that any of the victims sustained any substantial financial loss as a result of the thefts, Detective Arnold Cerezo said Tuesday. Much of the mail found when Hood was stopped Monday seemed to have little value, Cerezo said.

On July 3, the sheriff’s office and the United States Postal Service Inspection Service began a joint investigation into reports of thefts of mail in the Hagerstown area, police said. The thefts were reported in the Fountain Head area, Scott Hill Drive, Indian Lane and surrounding neighborhoods, police said.

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Investigators had a description of a car possibly involved in the thefts, according to the statement of probable cause filed by the sheriff’s office.

A surveillance was conducted Monday and a man was seen opening 30 mailboxes on Haven Road, Pennsylvania Avenue, Petmar Circle and in the Fountain Head area, police said. The man removed mail from 11 mailboxes, police alleged.

The man was seen stopping the car, putting on its emergency flashers and getting out to check mailboxes, retrieving mail from some, the charging document said.

On Petmar Circle, sheriff’s department detectives and Postal Service inspectors stopped the 2003 Nissan Altima that was driven by Hood, police said. In the car, investigators found 35 pieces of mail that had been taken from the homes and businesses of the alleged victims, police said.

The mail recovered Monday was returned to those from whom it was taken, police said.

The Postal Service will continue to investigate the earlier mail thefts and will determine whether to file federal charges, police said.

Among the pieces of mail found in the car were Brides, Taste of Home and Better Homes & Gardens magazines, a Hagerstown Community College booklet, a DirecTV mailer and outgoing mail from the American Cancer Society, the charging document said.

“I could give him loads of magazines,” said Mary Kinsley, when told Hood’s car had magazines in it. “He could just come and get them.”

Kinsley’s mailbox on Preston Road was empty when Hood was seen looking in it, the charging document said.

Robert Galioto of Fountain Head Road had to leave town unexpectedly last week and returned to find just a few pieces of mail in his box.

“I got one of my bills back” from a detective, he said.

Hood at first told investigators he was returning mail that had been mistakenly delivered to him, and then said his behavior was due to a manic episode, the charging document said. He told police he threw some mail away in commercial trash cans, the document said.

Residents who believe their mail might have been stolen can file a complaint with the United States Postal Inspection Service at www.postalinspectors.uspis.gov or by calling 877-876-2455.

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