A string of mailbox thefts at rural homes across Mendocino County has led to the arrest of a Redwood Valley woman found with mail belonging to nearly 50 different people, Mendocino County sheriff's deputies said Thursday.
Sonoma County has also seen a surge in mail theft in recent months, but authorities said the cases seemed unrelated.
The Mendocino County Sheriff's Office, as well as the Ukiah Police Department and the U.S. Postal Service, have all received reports of mail being stolen from rural mailboxes in Willits, Redwood Valley and Ukiah over the past several months, especially around the holidays, said sheriff's Lt. Shannon Barney.
While investigating those reports, deputies identified Kristalee Eriksen, 27, of Redwood Valley, as a suspect and tried to contact her several times, Barney said. On Wednesday, deputies received an anonymous tip that Eriksen was at her East Road home.
Deputies found Eriksen at the house and discovered a large bin full of mail, both opened and unopened. The pile included magazines, bills and at least one check, Barney said.
The mail came from 19 different addresses and belonged to 47 different people, including residents of Willits, Redwood Valley and Ukiah.
Deputies also found three grams of methamphetamine, digital scales and drug paraphernalia, Barney said.
Eriksen was arrested on suspicion of possession of stolen property and two drug-related allegations. She was also arrested on existing warrants for felony burglary as well as misdemeanor counts related to her not paying a fine for a battery conviction, Barney said. She was held Thursday on $80,000 bail.
The Sheriff's Office is still investigating whether others might be involved in the mail thefts, Barney said.
It will take time to connect the mail found at Eriksen's home with the known victims, especially since the thefts occurred across several jurisdictions, Barney said. There may be other victims who have not yet discovered their mail is missing, he added.
He encouraged anyone with information to call the Sheriff's Office. He also urged residents to monitor their personal bank accounts and credit history, as stolen mail can often lead to identity theft.
In Sonoma County, detectives investigating a rash of mail thefts are pursuing more than a dozen suspects, mainly from the East Bay. They are suspected of stealing checks from mailboxes, altering them and cashing them for large sums of money.
Two suspects have been arrested, Sonoma County sheriff's Sgt. Mike Raasch said. He has obtained warrants for the arrest of several others.
(You can reach Staff Writer Jamie Hansen at 521-5205 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter at @JamieHansen.)