Police and the U.S. Postal Service say four big, blue mail collection boxes, presumably with mail in them, disappeared from four Anchorage post offices in recent days. Two of them were taken on Christmas day.
Police said Wednesday they had an arrest warrant for a man who cashed a check that went through one of those post offices, the Muldoon Station. The man, who police are looking for, is Clifford E. Dancer, 50, of Anchorage, said Anchorage Police Department spokesman Dave Parker. Dancer is charged with forgery and theft in connection with the check, Parker said.
Three of the boxes have since been found, dropped off at locations from one end of town to the other.
The boxes were taken from the Muldoon, Spenard, Lake Otis and Huffman post offices, authorities said.
The U.S. Postal Inspection Service is offering a reward up to $5,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Dancer in the theft of the collection boxes. Mail theft is a federal crime punishable by five years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine, said Dave Schroader, spokesman for the Postal Inspection Service in Seattle.
Authorities began looking for Dancer after an Anchorage resident on Thursday told postal officials that a check he had mailed the day before at the Muldoon post office was cashed by someone to whom it had not been issued -- Dancer.
The check was chemically washed to remove the name of the person to whom it was written, and to alter the dollar amount, Parker said. The original had been written for $50, but the rewritten version was for several hundred dollars, Parker said.
The person who wrote the check looked online at his bank account the next day and discovered something amiss, Parker said.
Police think there are multiple people involved, Parker said.
Schroader said theft of the collection boxes is "extremely rare. Those individuals who want to take collection boxes have to work at it," he said. The boxes are bolted to the ground, and are heavy.
"Typically it would take a mechanical assist, or more than one person," Schroader said.
Authorities don't know exactly when the first two receptacles, at Muldoon and Lake Otis Stations, went missing. Both have been found, one in Eagle River and the other at a Campbell Creek trailhead off Tudor Road, Parker said. One had some mail in it, but checks could be missing, Parker said.
The other two collection boxes, at Huffman and Spenard Stations, disappeared on Christmas Day. One of them was recovered Wednesday afternoon in a storage yard near O'Malley Road and C Street, and the other hadn't been found yet as of late Wednesday, Parker said.
People who mailed valuable items or checks at any one of those four post offices over the past few days should check records to see if the checks or items arrived where they were intended, Parker said.
People with information about the collection box thefts are asked to call the Postal Inspection Service at 1- 877-876-2455.
Anyone who thinks their mail may have been stolen can call postal inspector Kim Dallas at 261-6323 in Anchorage.
Court records online show that Dancer has been charged with crimes a number of times, mostly for misdemeanors.
Reach Rosemary Shinohara at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4340.
By ROSEMARY SHINOHARA