16 April – LAWFUEL – The Law News Network – The U.S. Attorney’s Office announced the arrest of thirteen suspects on charges of stealing and conspiring to steal U.S. mail from a loading facility at San Francisco International Airport (SFO). The stolen mail was bound for U.S. military personnel stationed in Okinawa, Japan. The following individuals were arrested yesterday and were arraigned on the complaint this morning before U.S. Magistrate Judge Larson:
* Arthur Chester Orogo Balmes, 24, of Hayward
* Leonardo Ugalde Briosos, 51, of Daly City
* Rodolfo Ugalde Briosos, 52, of Daly City
* Francis Arnel Ronas Maroto, 25, of Sacramento
* Rafael Martinez, 24, of San Bruno
* Douglas Quintana Meehleib, 40, of Daly City
* Gabriel Jose Navarrette, 19, of Pacifica
* Jesus Jose Navarro, 22, of Burlingame
* Arnel Tabangcura Salaver, 46, of South San Francisco
* Fetongi Mamahi Sanft, 20, of East Palo Alto
* Vaea Tangitau Sanft, 19, of East Palo Alto
* Sosaia Toviko Tauelangi, 20, of East Palo Alto
* Segundo Bendo Tiongco, Jr.,40, of San Francisco
According to the complaint, since approximately November 2003 there have been over 570 reported incidents of mail being received by Okinawa military personnel with contents missing. The estimated losses of the reported missing mail is about $200,000. The reported mail losses were particularly high during the winter holiday season. The U.S. Postal Service requires senders of Okinawa-bound parcels to complete a customs declaration form, which plainly states the contents of the parcel and the corresponding value of those contents.
U.S. Postal Inspectors, with the assistance of U.S. military criminal investigators, investigated these reported losses and conducted surveillance of the loading facility at SFO, noting suspicious behavior by loading employees. According to the complaint, the inspector observed workers concealing merchandise under their clothing and taking it to their vehicles in an adjoining parking lot. The inspector also observed employees giving unusual attention to reading the customs declarations forms that stated the contents and value of those contents of the parcel.
U.S. Attorney Kevin V. Ryan said, “Stealing mail is a federal crime. We will not tolerate abuse of our mail system, and we will make every effort to ensure that postal customers and our postal system are protected and not compromised.”
The alleged stolen items include laptop computers, digital cameras, DVD players, video game consoles, DVDs, jewelry, clothing, paintball guns, gift cards, Hugo Boss bath products, Victorias Secret merchandise, and collector coins. According to the complaint, after items were stolen from packages, the suspects would then re-tape the package and send it on to Okinawa where the victims would discover the contents missing upon arrival.
Postal Inspector in Charge William P. Atkins stated, “Mail theft investigations are our top priority and if you steal mail you will go to jail.”
The defendants worked at SFO as cargo handlers employed by Aeroground, a company that provides cargo staffing to various airlines at SFO. Aeroground fully cooperated with this investigation. The defendants handled the mail for an airline which had a contract with the U.S. military to ship mail to Okinawa.
This prosecution is the result of an investigation by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service with the assistance of Army and Marine criminal investigators in Okinawa, Japan. Jeffrey R. Finigan is the Assistant U.S. Attorney prosecuting the case. The Daly City, Pacifica, South San Francisco, San Francisco, San Bruno, Burlingame, Sacramento, Hayward and East Palo Alto Police Departments assisted with this investigation along with the San Mateo Sheriff’s Department and the Air Cargo Task Force.
The thirteen defendants are charged by complaint with conspiring to steal and stealing U.S. mail in violation of Title 18 U.S.C. sections 371 and 1708. The maximum penalties for the offense charged in the complaint are 5 years in prison, followed by 3 years of supervised release, a $250,000 fine and a mandatory $100 special assessment. A complaint only contains allegations against an individual and, as with all defendants, these individuals must be presumed innocent unless and until convicted.
All defendants were released on $50,000 bonds with various conditions of release, the main one being any defendant who has a passport must turn it into the court before he will be released. All defendants were next set for appearance on April 29, 2005 for preliminary hearing or arraignment on an indictment. Three defendants, Maroto, Mehleib and Navarro, were set for April 20, 2005, to identify their counsel, since the attorneys who appeared with them today were only making special appearances.
A copy of this press release and related court filings may be found on the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s website at www.usdoj.gov/usao/can . Related court documents and information may be found on the U.S. District Court website at www.cand.uscourts.gov or on .
All press inquiries to the U.S. Attorney’s Office should be directed to Luke Macaulay at (415) 436-6757 or by email at Luke.Macaulay3@usdoj.gov .