Local Man Pleads Guilty To Hiding Key in Mail Theft Case

mail theft
USPS truck | Photo by Michael Bocchieri/Getty Images

A Fort Worth man has pleaded guilty to receiving and concealing an arrow key stolen from a mail carrier last September.

Willis Bender, 18, has admitted to having played a part in the theft of a key used by USPS workers to access collection boxes, parcel lockers, and more on their assigned routes. He pleaded guilty this week to receipt or concealment of stolen property of the United States, for which he faces up to 10 years in federal prison, per a news release from the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Texas.

Bender was indicted last October after being found in possession of a key taken from a mail carrier by an armed robber in Everman the month prior. The victim had told investigators a man threatened her at gunpoint and demanded she turn over her “mailbox key,” per the release.

When the investigation into the robbery led to Bender, he provided several different accounts of how he had come into possession of the stolen key.

As detailed in the release, the versions of his story included knowing nothing about it, a man showing up at his front door and forcing him to help in the robbery, being kidnapped and held captive in the backseat of the man’s vehicle during the robbery, and him finding the key outside his door and hiding it out of fear of being connected to the crime.

The young man’s arrest comes as a series of robberies targeting postal workers have occurred in the North Texas region, as covered by The Dallas Express. Despite the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) offering a $150,000 reward for information leading to an arrest, the brazen thefts have continued. The latest incident took place at a Fort Worth apartment complex on March 15, when a male suspect described as black, thin, in his early 20s, and between 5-foot-8 and 5-foot-9 allegedly robbed a letter carrier while they were delivering mail.

In February, trade union representatives and others organized a rally in Dallas to seek more protection on their routes and harsher penalties for robbers, as The Dallas Express reported. A nationwide uptick in such robberies has been reported these past two years, despite USPS promising to double down on their efforts to curb them, per AP News. While Congress is considering harsher criminal penalties, USPS is working to replace its antiquated arrow keys with electronic locks, install high-security boxes in crime-prone areas, and more.

Dallas has seen considerable reports of property crime — logging 15,739 as of April 4, according to the city’s crime dashboard. There have been 561 robberies, which are classified as violent crimes, with Council Member Omar Narvaez’s District 6 leading in the number of reports logged (72).

Meanwhile, a longstanding officer shortage has hindered the Dallas Police Department’s efforts to curb crime. It fields just 3,000 officers even though a City report recommended a force of 4,000 to serve the public safety needs of Dallas residents. However, the Dallas City Council spent considerably less taxpayer money on law enforcement than other high-crime jurisdictions, like Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York City, by budgeting only $654 million for DPD this year.

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