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Source:  http://www.recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20140227/A_NEWS/402270318

Arrest made in rash of mail thefts

Northwest Stockton resident gives police tip
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Tommy Sophat HonCourtesy
Joe Goldeen

STOCKTON - Police and a U.S. postal inspector went to the home of a suspect in a series of northwest Stockton mail thefts Tuesday night, discovered stolen mail and arrested a documented gang member.

Tommy Sophat Hon, 31, a parolee who uses the alias Babyboy, was arrested on suspicion of possession of stolen property, possession of burglary tools and violating parole, Stockton police reported.

Authorities discovered a large amount of mail believed to be stolen as well as tools used to break into locked mailboxes at Hon's single-family residence in the 3100 block of Mayten Court, between Holman Road and the Calaveras River in northeast Stockton.

Stockton police officers have been investigating the recent surge in mail thefts. Hon was taken into custody about 10:16 p.m. Tuesday without incident, according to police.

A tip from a resident of Grandi Circle in Spanos Park East eventually led to the arrest.

"Our patrol officers did an excellent job in following up on this case. There was a neighbor who knew of mail theft occurring out in his neighborhood," police spokesman Officer Joe Silva said. "While going out one morning, he noticed a suspicious person and a suspicious vehicle near a community mailbox and provided that information to our patrol officers."

Officers found the unoccupied vehicle, which led them to the suspect.

"Tuesday night they worked with the postal inspector and searched the suspect's residence to find a large amount of mail belonging to numerous different people," Silva said.

Silva could not immediately say how much mail, how many victims or where the mail came from, but among the items recovered were financial documents and stolen checkbooks.

Hon is being held at the County Jail in French Camp on a no-bail felony warrant from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation out of Van Nuys for a previous offense. He is scheduled for an appearance in San Joaquin County Superior Court at 1:30 p.m. today.

Law enforcement agencies including police, the San Joaquin County Sheriff's Office and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service have reported up to a 160 percent increase in reported mail thefts and mailbox break-ins in recent months. However, all the agencies say that mail theft is an underreported crime.

Postal Inspection Service spokesman Jeff Fitch has said to expect more arrests involving the Stockton area following ongoing investigations. He would not comment on the latest arrest. But he noted that mail theft is a federal felony that is subject to a fine up to $250,000 and a prison sentence up to five years. A $10,000 reward is available for information leading to an arrest and conviction.

Victims of mail theft should contact their local law enforcement agency as well as postal inspectors at (877) 876-2455 or online at postalinspectors.uspis.gov. Victims also can go into any post office and request a Mail Theft Complaint form.

Jeff Lee, a north Stockton Neighborhood Watch coordinator whose own neighborhood has been hit hard by mail thieves, hailed Wednesday's news of an arrest.

"A lot of neighbors are glad that at least one suspect was caught in regards to some mail thefts. I highly doubt that they caught everybody. It's a drop in the bucket for all that Stocktonians have been put through over all the lost mail," Lee said.

"At least there will be some type of prosecution for this guy and hopefully not just a slap on the wrist," he said.

Contact reporter Joe Goldeen at (209) 546-8278 or jgoldeen@recordnet.com. Follow him at www.recordnet.com/goldeenblog and on Twitter @JoeGoldeen.

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