Early Monday morning, several U.S. Postal Service offices in the Richmond area reported allegations of tampering with their outside mailboxes.
The reported thefts come during the third week of early voting for the upcoming presidential election, including mail-in absentee ballots. At this time, neither the U.S. Postal Service nor the Virginia Department of Elections can confirm if any election mail was in the various boxes.
“We believe mail was taken from the tampered boxes,” said Michael Romano, a U.S. Postal Service inspector, in an interview.
The U.S. Postal Inspection Service is investigating six locations where reports were called in at about 7 a.m. Monday:
- Westhampton Post Office, 805 Glenburnie Road in Richmond;
- Glen Allen Post Office, 4990 Sadler Place in Glen Allen;
- Midlothian Post Office, 1201 Sycamore Square Drive in Midlothian;
- Lakeside Post Office, 2100 E. Parham Road in Henrico County (Richmond mailing address);
- Regency Branch Post Office, 2000 Starling Drive in Henrico; and
- Pocoshock Creek Post Office, 7501 Lady Blair Lane in North Chesterfield.
Anyone who dropped off mail at any of the six locations from approximately 3 p.m. Saturday to early Monday morning should report a potential mail theft case to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service at (877) 876-2455.
“Mail theft is typically [uncommon], but these are crimes of opportunity and this does occur,” Romano said. “Postal inspectors need to engage immediately and start conducting an aggressive investigation.”
Mail theft is a federal felony, punishable by up to five years in prison per count of theft, Romano said.
Henrico Commonwealth’s Attorney Shannon L. Taylor said Monday that she will follow the investigation closely and has offered her assistance to federal officials.
“Postal boxes are federal property and I am extremely dismayed and disturbed that they would be broken into,” Taylor said in a statement.
“With a month before a critical election, some people are choosing to vote by mail and they must be able to know their vote is safe, will not be tampered with and will arrive in a timely fashion to their local registrar,” Taylor added.
U.S. Rep. Donald McEachin, D-4th, also weighed in on the mailbox thefts, saying in a statement, “It is a shame that someone has chosen to compromise this important resource for our communities.”
“Folks rely on these boxes to drop off bill payments, to send letters to friends and family and of course this year to mail in their absentee ballots,” said McEachin, adding that he will keep an eye on the investigation.
Last month, nearly 1 million Virginia residents had requested an absentee ballot ahead of Election Day. Virginia voters have until Friday, Oct. 23 at 5 p.m. to request an absentee ballot. All absentee ballots submitted by mail must be postmarked by Election Day and received by noon on Nov. 6 to be counted.
The article has been updated to correct the time window of potentially problematic mail drops.