The man wanted in connection with a string of Christmas-season mailbox thefts has been arrested. He was caught Saturday night in a Midtown liquor store parking lot, police say.
Police spotted Clifford Earl Dancer, 50, at about 10:30 p.m. in the parking lot of In-N-Out Liquor at 36th Avenue and Arctic Boulevard, a spokeswoman said. He was sitting in the passenger seat of a red Chevrolet S-10 pickup.
"Officers knew that there were people in the area that he used to associate with," said police spokeswoman Anita Shell.
Four large, blue collection mailboxes were stolen from the doorsteps of Anchorage post offices between Dec. 19 and Christmas Day, according to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. Dancer is accused of forging and cashing a check taken from one of the pilfered boxes. Postal inspectors on Dec. 26 announced a $5,000 reward for information leading to his arrest.
The mail theft rattled post office customers, who have been checking their bank statements for strange activity and wondering what became of their Christmas cards.
"I guess if my bills don't get paid or something weird happens, then I'll know," said Beth Cabiad, who dropped mail in the Muldoon box around the time of the crimes.
The man driving the Chevy pickup, 43-year-old Jerry Miller, also was arrested on warrants Saturday night. He has not been named as a suspect in the mailbox thefts.
"We haven't developed that yet but there's certainly the potential, because of the association," said spokesman Dave Schroader, a spokesman for the Postal Inspection Service in Seattle.
Police identified Dancer after Miller's arrest, Schroader said.
A police spokeswoman could not immediately say what Miller's warrants were for. Court records show he was charged with leaving the scene of an accident in July. Miller was convicted of felony theft in January 2011 and pleaded guilty to a separate drug possession charge later that year.
Authorities are obtaining a search warrant for the impounded truck and will look for connections to the thefts, Schroader said. The truck is not registered to Miller or Dancer but was not reported stolen, according to Anchorage police.
Postal inspectors rarely see collection boxes stolen from post offices, Schroader said. The boxes are heavy and conspicuous. They generally take more than one person to remove.
The Anchorage boxes were uprooted at post offices on Muldoon, Spenard and Huffman roads and on Lake Otis Parkway. Two were taken on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, police have said.
Dancer has been charged in state court with second-degree forgery, theft of an access device and third-degree theft, stemming from an attempt to "wash" a stolen check and cash it at a Midtown credit union.
Prosecutors are considering filing charges in federal court as well, Schroader said.
The postal service is asking anyone with information about the thefts to call 877-876-2455.