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Alleged Maryland mail thefts could result in federal charges

Authorities in Howard County are currently seeking an individual they claim has committed a series of recent mail thefts. So far, police have connected an individual to at least seven instances of theft that have occurred over the last few months. As law enforcement ramps up their investigation, it is important to know that mail theft is usually considered a federal crime.

In the incidents under investigation, police say that mailboxes that had a flag up were targeted. Additionally, reports indicate that mail was opened, checks were removed and then the envelopes were re-sealed. The individual -- or individuals -- believed to be responsible for the thefts allegedly altered the checks and cashed them.

Although local law enforcement officials are currently heading up the investigation, it could become a federal matter. Mailboxes are technically considered federal property, so tampering with or stealing the contents is considered a federal offense. As such, the recent incidents are likely to be pursued aggressively and will potentially carry steep penalties.

As the investigation continues, police are likely to proceed with criminal charges. One key aspect of this case is to ensure that all of the incidents are actually related. Police may not have solid evidence to connect the cases, so it will be important for anyone accused of theft to scrutinize the validity of each charge.

Furthermore, it's important to remember that it's possible to retain the services of an attorney even before charges are officially filed. During the course of an investigation, police may overstep their authority while attempting to collect evidence. In order to ensure fairness, it's important to make sure accused individuals have their rights protected at every step of the criminal process.

Source: The Baltimore Sun, "Howard Police investigate string of thefts from mailboxes," Luke Lavoie, Jan. 17, 2013

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