Long Beach and Lakewood Men Among the 33 Accused of Mail Theft and Other Crimes

As part of a wide-ranging bust centered on mail-related crimes in Southern California, federal officers said Friday that they’d imputed 33 people — including one from Long Beach and one from Lakewood — with committing offenses including stealing cell phones from a mail-processing center and keeping almost 50,000 items of undelivered mail.

The charges span 28 different criminal cases, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles.

Officials have so far announced arrest warrants for six of the 33 defendants.

Most of the suspects are U.S. Postal Service employees or contractors. About half of them are facing charges of mail theft or possession of stolen mail, but other cases include charges of conspiracy, misappropriation and bank fraud, according to prosecutors.

“Mail theft in Southern California has increased recently, which is significant since this type of offense conduces to be a precursor to other crimes like identity theft and drug transgressions,” U.S. Attorney Eileen M. Decker responded in a statement. “As a consequence, we are stepping up enforcement actions, including dealing aggressively with crime within the Postal Service.”

Most of the appellants were charged in grand jury indictments on Wednesday or Thursday, according to federal authorities.

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The accusations include numerous citizens from the Long Beach area:

  • Jose Hernandez, a 35-year-old Long Beach resident, arrested for mail theft while working for a USPS contractor
  • James Freeman, 30-year-old once mail carrier from Lakewood arrested for misusing a gas card issued by the USPS
  • Eugene Brown, a 43-year-old Compton man, indicted for making false statements about his criminal past on a USPS job application

In another case, a former local area director of the Mail Handlers Union is accused of snatching mobile phones while he worked as a mail handler at a Moreno Valley shipping center. Prosecutors alleged Joel Garcia, a 33-year-old Hemet citizen, would sell the phones online. At one point in December 2015, Garcia had at least 166 phones he’d kept, prosecutors allege.

Prosecutors also remarked their case against Sherry Naomi Watanabe, a 48-year-old mail courier from Los Angeles. Federal officials allege they found more than 48,000 pieces of mail at Watanabe’s home that she was assumed to have delivered to customers on her route in Placentia. She’s now facing charges of delaying the mail.

The USPS Office of Inspector General examined these cases.

Additionally, there were 21 other defendants from different cities in Los Angeles area.

Vince Johnson, 30, of Carson, who operated for a USPS contractor, charged with possession of stolen mail;

Tamika Deloach, 38, of Wilmington, a mail courier, accused of possession of stolen mail related to checks she supposedly took mail and saved into her credit union account;

Charell Watson, 32, of West Covina, once a mail processing clerk, charged with theft of mail by a postal worker;

Nicole Elwood, 45, of Atascadero, accused of theft of mail by a postal employee for allegedly stealing mail items containing medicines, including medicines sent from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to their veterans;

Kayla Young, 23, of Diamond Bar, accused of mail theft by a postal worker;

Michael Smith, 43, of Lake Elsinore, was charged with mail theft by a postal worker for allegedly stealing money orders from a mail pouch;

Justin Brewster, 25, of Lake Elsinore, a USPS mail processing clerk, accused of mail theft by a postal worker for allegedly stealing video games sent to or from Gamefly;

Christian Wesley Johnson, 27, of Los Angeles (90044), a postal clerk, accused of mail theft by a postal agent for stealing mobile phones, which, according to his plea arrangement, were valued at approximately $15,000;

Deion Deshazier, 27, a former mail courier, of Hawthorne, was charged with dropping and delaying mail;

Betty Owens, 73, of Oakland, a once mail handler, was accused of a misdemeanor of theft of government property (for fraudulent mileage restitution).

Lisa Thornberry, 31, from Rancho Cucamonga, and Ian McCown, 34, from Alta Loma, accused of conspiring together to steal mail and holding stolen mail;

Chelsea Green, 24, of Canoga Park, a former mail courier, was charged with bank fraud for supposedly mistreating a USPS-issued gas card and fraudulently using the PIN of another USPS employee to fuel her car;

James Freeman, 30, of Lakewood, a once mail courier, accused of bank fraud for supposedly misusing a USPS-issued gas pass;

Mary Williams, 60, of Los Angeles, a once USPS sales associate, accused of making a false access in an official record related to her alleged defalcation of funds from USPS.

Among many others.

Watch a video about this particular case.

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