Police: Tracking device led to arrest of man stealing mail from Park Ridge collection box

A South suburban man is facing a federal theft charge alleging he stole mail from a collection box outside the Park Ridge post office, authorities said Wednesday.

Kelvin Dortch Jr. of Dolton was arrested Sept. 15, after a tracking device placed in a mail container led postal investigators to his residence on the 14000 block of Evans Avenue, according to federal court documents.

The arrest follows an investigation launched earlier this year by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service after at least six break-ins of collection boxes outside the Park Ridge post office dating back to November, as well as numerous complaints about stolen mail.

In response, investigators installed surveillance cameras at the post office, according to a postal inspector's affidavit attached to the criminal complaint against Dortch.

Those cameras captured an unknown person using a U.S. Postal Service access key - either real or counterfeit - to open a collection box on June 30, July 19, July 22, Aug. 16 and Aug. 25 and remove a 13-gallon container filled with mail, the affidavit states.

According to the inspector, thieves steal mail to obtain personal and business checks, as well as to collect information to perpetrate identity theft.

"Not surprisingly, USPIS has received numerous reports from the Park Ridge post office and Park Ridge Police Department of customer complaints regarding stolen and altered checks that have been traced back to the USPS collection boxes located outside the Park Ridge post office," Postal Inspector Tyler Magnuson wrote.

On Sept. 4, inspectors placed a tracking device inside a collection box container, documents state. In the early morning hours of Sept. 15, inspectors received notification that the tracker had been moved to what was later identified as Dortch's home.

After obtaining a search warrant later that day, inspectors located the tracking device inside the home, along with mail addressed to others in Dortch's bedroom and other parts of the residence, the affidavit states.

Court records indicate Dortch has been released on a recognizance bond pending his next court appearance.

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