The neighbor called 911 about 9 a.m. Nov. 6. She could see a woman dumping what appeared to be mail in the trash at her condo complex along 96th Avenue NE.
A Lake Stevens police officer found a woman matching the description sitting nearby in a car.
"He could see a large amount of mail in the vehicle that did not appear to be addressed to her," detective Jerad Wachtveitl said.
The woman gave three or four conflicting stories about why she had the mail, including claiming that she found it on the side of the road, Wachtveitl said. More than 25 pieces of mail could be seen covering the passenger side floorboard alone, he said.
Officers impounded the car and got a judge's permission to search it. They found an estimated 350 pieces of suspected stolen mail, mostly from Lake Stevens and Marysville, Wachtveitl said.
Detectives, who are still investigating, want to determine how the woman got the mail.
Mail theft most often is a springboard for identity theft, Wachtveitl said. Mail gets sold on the black market for money or drugs. People also look for checks to cash.
The woman, 32, of Snohomish County, remains free while detectives collect potential evidence. Police are working with an inspector from the United States Postal Service to identify and contact victims, Wachtveitl said. Mail theft is a felony under state law.
Rikki King: 425-339-3449; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tips to avoid mail theft
Check mail often. Use a locked mailbox or P.O. Box whenever possible.
If you're leaving town, ask the post office for a mail hold.
Call 911 if you see anyone suspicious hanging out by a mailbox or if anyone seems to be following mail carriers or other delivery people.
Source: Lake Stevens police
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