Mail stolen from over 100 in residence halls

Kristin Marthaler

Kristin Marthaler

A former SDSU employee is under investigation for mail theft involving more than 100 victims of Binnewies and Young residence halls.

U.S. Postal Inspector Joe Schneiders confirmed Monday he is involved in the investigation of the stolen mail.

Detective Brett Spencer of the University Police Department is helping with the investigation.

“If it wasn’t for Detective Spencer, we wouldn’t be where we are today,” said Schneiders.

Specifics of the investigation are outlined in an affidavit supporting Spencer’s request for a search warrant of the suspect’s Brookings home. The affidavit was filed with the Third Circuit Clerk of Courts on Feb. 24.

Shortly before Christmas break, students in Binnewies and Young halls started noticing their mail wasn’t where they had left it (in mailbox).

“I went to check my mail before heading over to Larson’s to eat. I knew I’d only be gone 20 minutes, so I left the card from my mom in there. When I got back it was gone,” said freshman Anthony Abeln, a Binnewies resident.

He asked his roommate if he had taken the mail, but he had not. When Abeln’s mother called to ask if he had received her letter and check, Abeln knew someone had stolen his mail.

Freshman Brian Bissell, also a Binnewies resident, experienced similar circumstances. “Before Christmas, my mom sent money, and I didn’t get it.” Bissell did not report it to anyone, but later heard from a girl on fourth floor that mail was being stolen.

Schneiders plans to turn the case over to the U.S. attorney’s office to be presented to a federal grand jury in Sioux Falls in April. He is seeking charges of mail theft and mail obstruction. The suspect could be charged with more than 100 counts. Each count carries a maximum of five years in federal prison.

The suspect is being held at the Women’s Prison in Pierre for violation of probation stemming from unrelated charges.

When Inspector Schneiders started investigating the mail thefts, he found himself against an invisible wall. At least one administrative official urged Inspector Schneiders to not investigate the case, “which is so sad, these kids are having their mail stolen.”

“I have had 150 dollars stolen on two different occurrences,” Bissell said, adding that he had the extra expense of canceling checks.

According to Dean Kattlemann, director of the Physical Plant, the Post Office on campus has two to three employees that work for SDSU. They are in charge of putting all the mail into appropriate bags and then delivering it to different administration buildings around campus, as well as the residential halls. Once in the buildings, the secretarie or those students working in the residential halls sort the mail.

“We are currently changing the way our system works,” said Michael Kervin, director of Residential Life. “We are having two people work the mailroom at the same time, all the time. They are the only ones with keys and the only ones allowed in the room.”

“This is something that should have been changed long before I was here,” he added.

Flyers have been hung in the residence halls asking others who believe their mail may have been stolen to call Detective Spencer at 688-5117.

After attempts to contact UPD Chief Tim Heaton, the Collegian talked with Detective Spencer, who said, “my boss told me to tell you we do not comment on ongoing investigations.”

The suspect was detained when she failed to let her probation officer know she had been investigated. That is one of the requirements when on probation. Anytime a subject is questioned, he/she must report it to his/her probation officer.

#1.884601:3698600309.jpg:mailboxes02.jpg:Mail is filled behind mail slots in residence halls. More is being done to limit the access to the mailrooms.: