Mail theft is a widespread problem for many communities in Western Washington. "It's unfortunate that you can't leave things in your mailbox but we do have a lot of thefts just from unsecured mailboxes," said Officer Loretta Cool with Tacoma Police.
Detectives have identified one suspect accused of forging a check that was stolen out of a mail and then trying to cash it. Kelsea Bernhardt has a warrant for her arrest after being charged with identity theft in the second degree, forgery and theft in the third degree. Tacoma Police say the victim put two checks in his outgoing mail to pay his bills last December. The next day, Columbia Bank notified him that someone had cashed one of the checks for $750.
Detectives say bank surveillance video shows Antonio Overby and Bernhardt enter the Spanaway branch. Each went to a different teller with the forged checks. Detectives say Overby successfully cashed a stolen check. Police say Bernhardt tried to cash one that had been altered to read $1,000.
"The teller actually called the owner of the check and determined the check had been stolen. Before Kelsea could obtain any money, she realized that the teller was checking on her so she fled the bank leaving the check behind," said Cool.
Overby was arrested on Jan. 17 and remains in the Pierce County jail charged with numerous I.D. theft and forgery cases. Bernhardt has not been caught and police are asking for the public's help to find her. She has an extensive history of forgery, theft, fraud and identity theft.
Police encourage everyone to sign up to pay bills online whenever possible to avoid having checks stolen. "We advise people not to put written checks out in their mail, especially if their mailbox isn't locked. When you clip your mail to your mailbox and the mailbox is open and people walking by or driving by can see you have five or six letters clipped to the mailbox, they know people are paying their bills and then you’re increasing your opportunity of becoming a victim," said Cool.
Bernhardt is 5-feet, 5-inches tall and weighs 200 pounds. She has brown hair and blue eyes. Her hair is short but she sometimes wears a wig. If you can tell officers where to find her, Crime Stoppers of Tacoma\Pierce County will pay you a cash reward of up to $1,000. Just call the hot line anonymously at 1 (800) 222-TIPS. This is one of the cases being featured this weekend on “Washington’s Most Wanted” airing Friday night at 11 p.m. on Q13 FOX and Saturday night at 9:30 p.m. on JOEtv and 10:30 p.m. on Q13 FOX.