Postal inspector explains why mail suspect wasn’t arrested

A 23-year-old man on a bicycle who is a suspect in rural mail thefts just southeast of Temple couldn’t be arrested because he allegedly threw the mail in the ditch, U.S. Postal Inspector Mike Sullivan said.

“We couldn’t charge him if the mail isn’t on him, according to federal guidelines,” Sullivan said.

Several pieces of mail were found alongside both roads, but none were in the man’s possession, Sullivan said.

  However, Bell County Sheriff Maj. T.J. Cruz said Monday that the man did have one item on him when he was detained, and it is still being investigated.

One option in proving a connection between the man and the mail would be taking and examining fingerprints on mail and mailboxes, Sullivan added.

  “Items were collected and have been processed for prints. Nothing (was) located as yet, but (we) have not looked at everything at this point,” Cruz said.

Temple doesn’t have a large-scale issue with mail theft, but Sullivan recalled the 2014 sentencing of two Temple residents to federal prison for thefts that involved more than 50,000 pieces of mail and over $500,000 in other government property in about 80 cities and towns around Texas.

Charles Preston Hattanbach and Kathryn Hubbert were sentenced to 81 months and 48 months in prison, respectively, and were order to pay $103,720 in restitution and $11,000 in fines respectively.

Their crime spree began in December 2013 and continued until March 2014. They targeted post officers in Temple, Belton, Buckholts, Cameron, Copperas Cove, Florence, Gause, Harker Heights, Heidenheimer, Holland, Hutto, Jarrell, Killeen, Lampasas, Milano, Nolanville, Pendleton, Rosebud, Salado, Taylor and Troy.

Sullivan verified that the U.S. Postal Service was contacted last week by law enforcement officers and is involved in this recent investigation.

Bell County deputies went to the area of Knob Creek Road and Riggs Road on Sept. 24 and found a man, but later released him, while they continued the investigation, Maj. T.J. Cruz, Bell County Sheriff’s Department spokesman, said.

Investigators are still questioning people who believe their mail was stolen to figure how many people were victimized, Cruz said.

The man is the top suspect, Cruz added.

People living in the affected area who believe their mail, either incoming or outgoing, was taken are asked to call the Criminal Investigations Office at 254-933-5435.