By Beth Brelje
Authorities say a Philadelphia man found with about 15 mail-in ballots that had been stolen from U.S. Postal Service collection boxes faces numerous postal-related charges.
Zachkey James, 27, was charged with impersonation of a U.S. Postal Service (USPS) Mail Carrier, unlawful possession of three USPS arrow keys, mail theft, and possession of stolen mail, U.S. Attorney Jacqueline C. Romero said in a statement.
The arrow key is a universal master key that opens USPS mail boxes and the master door panel for clusters of mail boxes such as those found in apartments.
A July 2022 indictment alleges that while pretending to be a USPS mail carrier, James stole undelivered mail from a collection box near the Kingsessing Post Office in Philadelphia.
In October 2022, while again allegedly pretending to be a mail carrier, James is accused of stealing undelivered mail from a collection box near the East Germantown Post Office in Philadelphia. And in November 2022, James possessed three arrow keys and approximately 15 mail-in ballots that had been taken from USPS collection boxes, the indictment said.
If convicted, James faces a maximum of 31 years in prison and a $1.5 million fine.
The case was investigated by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick Brown.
Arrow Key Theft
In October, Romero reported the indictment of three men who allegedly robbed a USPS letter carrier of his arrow key on Dec. 22, 2021, and used the key repeatedly to steal mail from collection boxes in Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania.
The indictment said they found and altered checks in the mail to make them payable to third parties, often in amounts greater than the checks’ original value, then deposited the washed and altered checks into third-party accounts.
Money orders, gift cards, and cash are other possible finds in the mail.
Across the internet there are multiple examples of arrow key thefts—so called because they are imprinted with an arrow.
Over the summer at least 13 arrow keys were stolen during assaults on letter carriers in the Washington D.C. area, according to news reports.
“In recent months, there has been a rise in crimes involving the mail, including mail theft, check washing and robberies of postal carriers,” Romero said in a Twitter video. “Make no mistake, mail theft is a serious federal offense. If you steal mail, you are going to prison.”
John Walker, assistant inspector in charge for the Philadelphia Division of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, spoke in the same video and advised mail consumers to notice the last pickup time posted on every blue collection box. If consumers are there after that time, they should consider holding their items until the following day.
Customers can also mail their items inside any post office.