19-year-old man arrested again for mail theft in Spring; Why didn't feds charge him the first time?

Rosie Nguyen Image
Friday, May 31, 2024
Man arrested again for mail theft: Why wasn't he charged the 1st time?
Benjamin Williams is facing federal charges after deputies found counterfeit mailbox keys and more than $100,000 worth of stolen checks in Spring.

SPRING, Texas (KTRK) -- A 19-year-old man is now facing federal charges after Harris County Constable Precinct 4 deputies found counterfeit mailbox keys and multiple stolen checks valued at more than $100,000 in his car.

Records show he was convicted for a similar crime last year in Harris County. But why didn't the feds go after him the first time, and could it have prevented him from becoming a repeat offender?

According to Pct. 4, a Postal Police Inspector informed the constable's office on Friday about a potential mail theft suspect in the Wendy's parking lot on Spring Cypress Road near Champion Forest Drive.

Deputies said the suspect, 19-year-old Benjamin David Williams, fled the area at a high rate of speed and took them on a chase for about five miles.

While searching Wiliiams' vehicle, investigators said they found two counterfeit postal keys to open U.S. Postal Service mailboxes and several checks valued at approximately $100,000.

Amythyst Manning, who owns a business in the area, said she was informed Saturday by a federal investigator that some of those checks belonged to her.

She told ABC13 that one was a $1,400 check mailed out of her office complex, along with a second set of checks totaling $8,000 coming in from out-of-state, leading them to believe the theft was committed at a central hub between the origin and destination addresses.

ALSO: With mail theft on the rise, solutions come down to preventative measures

Manning expressed that she doesn't feel comfortable mailing checks through the U.S. Postal Service anymore, as this is the second time in a year that she's been a victim of mail theft.

The first time, she explained someone check-washed a $230,000 payment she issued and fraudulently deposited it. Luckily, she was able to get her money back from the bank.

"It's happened too many times in less than a year. So it's not a safe place anymore," Manning said. "It's a pain because I just canceled one of my other checking accounts for fraud, and I have to go through the whole process again. Now, I'm always looking for more secure methods like Zelle, ACH, or positive pay."

Records showed Williams was convicted of a similar crime a year ago in Harris County and was given probation. However, he was not prosecuted at the federal level.

ABC13 asked the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) why they didn't file charges against Williams the first time, but a spokesperson declined to provide further information about their investigation.

Shawn Boyd, who is with the National Association of Letter Carriers, explained that it's likely due to a lack of money and resources.

According to data obtained from USPIS by 13 Investigates, out of roughly 5,000 complaints of mail theft last year in Harris County, only 44 arrests were made. Through an open records request, 91 postal inspection law enforcement officers are in Texas.

However, not all 91 officers investigate mail full-time. In fiscal year 2022, just 37% of postal inspectors worked mail theft cases, according to last year's USPS Office of the Inspector General audit.

READ MORE: 13 Investigates finds just 91 postal inspectors in Texas despite thousands of mail theft complaints

"It disgusts me that the federal government doesn't care enough about these employees. We're out there on the street risking their lives, just to deliver mail and packages," said Boyd. "We need the Justice Department to step up to the plate and prosecute every one of these crimes."

Boyd said this case is part of a more significant issue that's not being prosecuted enough: thieves getting ahold of master keys by robbing postal workers, sometimes violently.

He explained that they are seeing these crimes get more aggressive and reckless.

"These criminals are actually going to the mail carriers while they've got their backs turned, and they'll point a gun to their face. We've had employees beat up and even assault rifles used in these robberies," Boyd said. "Since they're considered federal employees, mail carriers are not allowed to carry any type of weapon to defend themselves."

As a result, Boyd's union has been working on a federal bill that is now making its way through Congress. The Protect Our Letter Carriers Act would secure funding to install high-security collection boxes, increase prosecution rates for related crimes, and strengthen sentencing guidelines.

Williams was arrested and booked into the Harris County Jail and charged with evading a motor vehicle. His bond was set at $8,000. The Postal Police also filed federal charges against him for two counts of Unlawful Use of a Criminal Instrument and Possession of Identifying Information.

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