An investigation into reports of people tampering with mailboxes in Jackson County in January led to the arrest Friday of a woman and her daughter at a motel on Seymour’s east side.
Columbus resident Amber D. Morgan, 28, and her mother, Barbara J. Duncan, 53, were also involved in thefts from mailboxes across the state during the past five months, police report.
Sheriff Michael Carothers said investigators said they believe Morgan and Duncan were driving up to mailboxes and taking credit cards, debit cards, checks, driver’s licenses and other mail in Jackson County and anywhere from 12 to 14 other counties since October.
An arrest warrant also has been filed for Tony G. Michael, 47, of North Vernon, in connection with the investigation, Carothers said.
“This had taken place not only in Jackson County but north of Indianapolis to the Ohio River,” Carothers said. “They were going to an area and working it for a couple of weeks and then would move out and go somewhere else — migrating up and down the state.”
The list of counties where incidents of tampering with mailboxes have been reported include Bartholomew, Clark, Hendricks, Morgan and Scott, he said.
“Their arrests are going to eliminate a lot of identity thefts,” Carothers said. “We have found several different ones that had been taken.”
Police said the investigation began in January when the sheriff’s department received reports that someone had been tampering with mailboxes. Some of the people told police their checks had been cashed.
On Friday, the sheriff’s department located a stolen vehicle on County Road 340N in Jackson County. That vehicle had been reported stolen to the Marion County Metro Police Department, and police were able to determine it was connected to the mailbox thefts.
“The three of them had been using the vehicle at one point,” Carothers said.
A search warrant was issued by a judge for the vehicle after a request by Deputy Prosecutor Jeff Chalfant. Stolen mail was found inside the vehicle during the search, police said.
Investigators were later able to track Morgan and Duncan to Knights Inn in Seymour, and that’s where they were arrested Friday, police said.
During a search of their motel room, Carothers said police found mail that had been stolen out of counties in both the northern and southern parts of the state. They also found stolen credit cards, debit cards, Indiana driver’s licenses and prescription medications in the room, police said.
Morgan faces charges of resisting law enforcement, theft, two counts of possession of stolen property, false identifying and trafficking with an inmate. She also was wanted on a warrant out of Bartholomew County.
Duncan faces charges of disorderly conduct, theft and possession of stolen property.
Carothers said when officers tried to arrest Morgan, she attempted to slip back into the hotel room, resulting in the resisting charge. She also tried to sneak drug paraphernalia into the jail during the book-in process, resulting in the trafficking charge.
Morgan and Duncan were both being held without bond Wednesday morning at the Jackson County Jail in Brownstown. Their initial hearings in Jackson Circuit Court have not been set.
Michael, who police say aided the pair, had not been arrested as of Wednesday morning, but when he is, Carothers said he will face charges of possession of stolen property and theft.
Police said additional arrests are expected.
Carothers said the sheriff’s department has contacted the U.S. Postal Service and told them about the crimes. He said with the size of the case crossing county lines, the information could be of interest to federal law enforcement.
Other counties had received reports of mail thefts but had not made any arrests.
Carothers credits the arrests of Morgan and Duncan to the work of his officers, who spent much time looking for the stolen vehicle and linking the three to the thefts.
The stolen property was secured and placed into evidence at the sheriff’s department.