Butte-Silver Bow Police are getting ready to issue several warrants for the arrest of people suspected to be involved in a rash of mailbox break-ins in rural areas around Butte, according to Butte-Silver Bow County Undersheriff George Skuletich.
Skuletich said that as many as six unit mailboxes have been hit since January, including one that was opened Wednesday. Skuletich said the culprits are looking for checks in the mail, which the thieves can then pass as bad checks at stores.
The crime has been occurring mostly in rural parts of the county. Skuletich said the victims have been located in areas such as Little Basin Creek Road and Basin Creek Road, Blacktail Loop, south of the Butte Country Club, and homes in the East Ridge area.
There were at least three break-ins into unit mailboxes in the Elk Park area in December, said Jefferson County Sheriff Craig Doolittle. He said a fourth incident just after Christmas could have been a break-in when a unit of mailboxes was found open, but nothing was stolen.
Doolittle said there have been recent reports of mailbox break-ins south of Helena in the South Hills area. He said the Elk Park and South Hills' crimes could be related to the Butte break-ins, but police have no evidence of that.
A woman who wished to remain anonymous contacted The Montana Standard and said her mailbox was hit a couple of days ago. She lives on Continental Drive.
Skuletich said the arrest warrants will be for passing bad checks. But police believe the bad check passing in Butte stores is related to the rash of mail box break-ins. Police believe a group of people are involved.
Skuletich said one person living in the 100 block of Grand View Drive on the East Ridge found her mail stolen close to noon Wednesday. She had put outgoing mail into her mailbox at about 7 a.m. That resident has a single mail box.
But many of the break-ins have been unit mailboxes. Often, the culprits peel the back off of those boxes and then steal the mail out of several boxes, according to Skuletich.
Skuletich said this type of crime is not unusual. The B-SB Police department sees one or two a month, usually, he said.
“Stores need to check ID,” Skuletich said.
That helps to prevent back check passing.
In addition to tampering with a check found in the mail, the culprits also steal the bank routing numbers and create new checks of their own, Skuletich said.
Skuletich said the crime is generally prosecuted as a theft, not as a federal offense. But that decision, ultimately, would be up the county attorney to decide.
A telephone message was left for the United States Postal Service district spokesperson, Diane Stadem, in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.