Stolen Mail Was Addressed to Military Personnel in Okinawa, Japan
SAN FRANCISCO – LAWFUEL – The Law News Network – United States Attorney Kevin V. Ryan announced that the fifteenth defendant pleaded guilty today to a charge of conspiring to steal U.S. mail bound for U.S. military personnel stationed in Okinawa, Japan. Fifteen defendants have now admitted to conspiring to steal and stealing mail from a loading facility at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) between November 2003 and April 2005. The fifteen defendants have pleaded guilty over the past two weeks with the final defendant pleading guilty this morning before U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey S. White.
According to the complaint preceding the indictment, since November 2003 there were 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.
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, Victoria’s 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.
The following individuals have pleaded guilty to conspiring to steal United States mail in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 371 and 1708, a felony:
Arthur Chester Orogo Balmes, 24, of Hayward
Agosto Ayson Biagon, 30, of San Francisco
Leonardo Ugalde Briosos, 51, of Daly City
Rodolfo Ugalde Briosos, 52, of Daly City
Francis Arnel Ronas Maroto, 26, of Sacramento
Rafael Martinez, 24, of San Bruno
Douglas Quintana Meehleib, 40, of Daly City
Gabriel Jose Navarrette, 20, of Pacifica
Jesus Jose Navarro, 23, of Burlingame
Arnel Tabangcura Salaver, 46, of South San Francisco
Fetongi Mamahi Sanft, 20, of East Palo Alto
Vaea Tangitau Sanft, 20, of East Palo Alto
Elgin Blancaflor Sarique, 30, of South San Francisco
Sosaia Toviko Tauelangi, 21, of East Palo Alto
Segundo Bendo Tiongco, Jr., 40, of San Francisco
The sixteenth defendant, Rondale Asopardo, is believed to be in the Philippines and a no-bail arrest warrant has been issued for him. These individuals were indicted on May 4, 2005, on charges of stealing and conspiring to steal U.S. mail.
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 County Sheriff’s Department and the Air Cargo Task Force.
The maximum penalties for stealing and conspiracy to steal U.S. mail are 5 years in prison, followed by 3 years of supervised release, a $250,000 fine and a mandatory $100 special assessment. However, any sentence following conviction would be imposed by the court after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553.