Deputies turned over a bag full of mail to federal investigators Wednesday as they look into a Christmas mail theft in Riverview.
Hundreds of pieces of mail – some of them ripped open and the contents missing - were found scattered on the ground in several Riverview neighborhoods on Tuesday.
"I would suggest based on it being Christmas Eve, the criminals were probably intent on finding cards with money or gift cards and probably just discarded what they didn't want," said postal inspector Doug Smith.
The U.S. Postal Inspection Service is now investigating the case that could lead to federal charges of mail theft – a crime punishable by up to five years in prison. The mail theft crime applies even if the suspects didn't get away with any cash, he said. Just taking the mail out of someone's mailbox could be enough for a charge, even if the mail is dumped on the ground, he said.
Smith says postal inspectors have seen this type of crime in previous holiday seasons.
In this case, authorities think someone covered a lot of ground through several subdivisions by driving through the neighborhoods and targeting the mailboxes.
The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office responded to calls about the mail in the Boyette Farms, Rivercrest, Tucker Road and Summerfield areas.
There were also two reports of a white, gold or tan colored four-door sedan with multiple occupants looking in mailboxes early Christmas morning.
Authorities are trying to piece together what's missing from victims' mail. If you believe something such as a check, cash or a gift card was taken from your mailbox, you can contact the U.S. Postal Inspection Service at 877-696-5322.
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