SEATTLE — A months-long investigation ends with the arrest of a 27-year-old man accused of stealing United States Postal Service vehicles and mail, forcing southeast Seattle residents to pick up their mail from the post office in recent weeks.
United States Postal Inspectors arrested Johny Mixayboua Wednesday morning on a federal complaint and charged him with theft of mail and possession of stolen mail, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office Western District of Washington.
Wiegand told KOMO News they've been trying to arrest Mixayboua for days, finally catching him with help from the U.S. Coast Guard and one of its police dogs.
“This individual is more kind of floated around within the region, so it just took us a while to nail down that exact spot. He may or may not be at. This gentleman was very hard for us to track at times because of that lifestyle,” said Postal Inspector John Wiegand.
That lifestyle, Wiegand told KOMO News, often includes moving around, living out of cars, and even living out of stolen cars.
"This gentleman was very hard for us to track at times," said Wiegand.
This 27-year-old already has a rap sheet that includes 18 felony convictions, just getting out of prison in August.
Court documents now accuse him of stealing five mail trucks between December 28 and March 28 throughout Seattle. Each of those trucks, Wiegand said, was recovered within 15-20 minutes.
“He'd only drive them about a block away to take some mail and head out,” said Wiegand.
According to a criminal complaint, a USPS vehicle with a postal key inside used for cluster mailbox units in the 98178 zip code was stolen on Dec. 28 from the 6300 block of South Bangor Street in Seattle. Since the theft, there have been several reports of stolen mail, including credit cards, which Mixayboua is accused of trying to use, sometimes successfully, other times not.
Each time a theft was reported, or a postal customer reported a stolen card, Wiegand told KOMO News, they searched for surveillance video to show those acts, and often, they identified the same man in that surveillance.
“We identified multiple victims who had credit cards as well as checks and debit cards stolen. It’s those leads that we got that broke this case open for us,” said Wiegand.
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On Jan. 17, two more USPS vehicles were stolen, this time from the 98116 zip code: one on the 3000 block of Beach Drive Southwest and the other on the 3600 block of 57th Place Southwest, the attorney's office said. Using doorbell camera footage, the attorney's office added, investigators identified Mixayboua in that video, removing mail and parcels from one of the vehicles and putting it into the other.
"Again, law enforcement traced credit cards stolen from the mail and obtained surveillance footage that appears to show Mixayboua attempting to make purchases with the credit cards," the attorney's office said.
A fourth USPS vehicle was stolen from the 2000 block of South Columbian Way on Jan. 30, the attorney's office said, and a fifth from the 5700 block of South 129th Avenue on March 28. Mixayboua matched the description of the suspect in one of the thefts, the attorney's office added.
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More mail thefts occurred in the Snoqualmie area in late January and February as cluster boxes were opened with a key and credit cards were stolen, the attorney's office said. One of the card's transactions was linked to images of Mixayboua making purchases at Target, the attorney's office added.
Mail thefts continued throughout April and expanded from Lake Forest Park to southeast Seattle, the attorney's office said. Delivery service in the 98118 zip code was suspended for about a week as the search for Mixayboua continued.
All of this evidence may point to the man who carried it out, but there’s the unanswered question of how someone could steal a mail truck. Isn’t it and the mail inside of it locked up?
“It is secure the vehicles each one of these vehicles was locked. If you’re able to break into the vehicle and get it started, then you’ve also got some other sophistication on how to get past any other kind of means that may be involved,” said Wiegand.
Mixayboua was kept handcuffed while appearing before a federal judge Wednesday afternoon. Dressed in jeans and a wrinkled, white t-shirt, he sat next to his court-appointed only spoke when the judge asked him a few yes or no questions while sitting next to his court-appointed attorney.
Mixoyboua right now faces up to five years for each of the two counts outlined in the federal complaint, but Assistant United States Attorney Elyne Vaught told KOMO News that more counts may be added. He said they've got 30 days to complete that.
And postal inspectors could also make additional arrests in this case.