A Southern California man was sentenced to 18 months behind bars this week for prying his way into at least 94 mailboxes at the height of the coronavirus pandemic and stealing stimulus checks.
The office of the U.S. Attorney Southern District of California in San Diego said Theodore Bennett, 33, of Imperial County, California, was sentenced in federal court on three counts of mail theft and one count of possession of stolen mail.
Bennett admitted that in the summer of 2020 – on at least four separate occasions – he used a flathead screwdriver and prybar to pry open dozens of post office boxes at post offices in San Diego and Imperial counties.
In his plea agreement, federal officials said Bennett stole “dozens of pieces of mail.” That mail included credit cards and $6,500 worth of checks belonging to people, businesses, and non-profits. Federal officials said some of those checks were Economic Impact Payments – or pandemic stimulus checks – issued by the U.S. Department of Treasury.
When Bennett was arrested, agents found him in possession of the stolen mail – including the stolen stimulus checks. Investigators have linked him to at least three post office break-ins in Southern California.
Acting U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman said in a press release this week that those stolen stimulus checks were “desperately-needed income during a pandemic.”
“The impact on victims can be devastating,” Grossman added.
Several agencies worked on this case, Grossman said, including the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, U.S. Border Patrol, and the U.S. Department of Treasury.