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Investigators offer reward after thieves rob USPS mail carriers, make off with postal keys

Officials in Newark sound alarm after keys to USPS blue mailboxes stolen
Officials in Newark sound alarm after keys to USPS blue mailboxes stolen 02:02

NEWARK, N.J. -- Officials are issuing a holiday mail alert.

Cards or letters from Newark may not make it to their destination. This after thieves tried to rob four mail carriers there over the past five weeks, and got away with two keys to those blue street mailboxes.

CBS2's Tim McNicholas has more what that means for holiday gifts.

One by one, people drop their mail into the locked blue boxes in zip code 07017. There's just one problem: On Monday, an armed robber got away with a mail carrier's postal key.

"Just terrible," USPS customer Charlie DeFranza said. "If they grab the mail not knowing what's there, then my customer don't get the bill. I don't get paid."

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And it wasn't the first key stolen recently. Investigators have released a reward poster for three other armed robberies or attempted robberies of mail carriers in Newark's 07108 and 07112 zip codes in late October. The poster offers an image of two suspects, and up to $50,000 for information leading to a conviction. Postal inspectors confirmed in at least one of those crimes the thieves got away with a postal key.

"I'm really, really encouraging people to be careful," Congressman Josh Gottheimer said.

Gottheimer is warning thieves might be looking to steal holiday cash or alter checks.

"I'd say you've got to watch your bank accounts. Watch to make sure that if you put a check in the mail, that it gets cashed by the right person for the right amount," Gottheimer said.

Postal inspectors say you should avoid dropping your mail in the boxes after the final USPS collection time -- usually 5 p.m. -- because you don't want your mail sitting in there overnight.

They also told McNicholas they've seen a recent rise in the robberies of postal employees.

"But also fraud at large, where they're just stealing more mail and more packages than ever before," Gottheimer said.

"It affects everybody," said DeFranza, who added he's not too worried because he doesn't mail cash or checks. "It worries me only to find out that people are so criminal."

But that doesn't mean he's not upset.

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