Suspect arrested in connection with burglaries at post office
DILLON – A local man whose address is his camper was arrested Monday night in connection with the theft of packages from Dillon Post Office parcel lockers.
Authorities nabbed 44-year-old Ronald Augustine around 11 p.m. Monday after he allegedly removed several parcels from the lockers in the post office lobby, Dillon Police Chief Gary Cline said.
Federal postal inspectors have been investigating a string of thefts at the Dillon Post Office where about 40 people have had mail stolen from parcel lockers in the past six weeks.
Augustine is being charged with eight counts of burglary, Cline said. He allegedly admitted to stealing packages from the post office to support his drug habit and is being interviewed by the Summit County Drug Task Force.
“He’s definitely the suspect who was breaking into the boxes,” Cline said.
A former Silverthorne resident, Augustine now lives in his vehicle, Cline said.
He is being held at the Summit County Jail on $10,000 bail, said Jill Berman, public information officer at the Summit County Sheriff’s Office.
Inspectors initially believed an employee was committing the crime, as the locks on the parcel lockers showed no signs of tampering. But inspectors later concluded the thief was accessing the lockers from the lobby, which is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
According to Rick Sprague, officer in charge at the Dillon Post Office, the lockers were built with a faulty design which allowed the thief to access locked lockers from those unlocked below.
The bottom shelf of the parcel lockers does not extend all the way to the back, and inspectors believe the thief was able to insert his hand through the space and pull soft packages out of the lockers, Sprague said.
Inspectors about two weeks ago set up a video surveillance camera in the post office lobby.
At about the same time, postal employees began giving customers slips to claim their packages at the front desk. Sprague said he used dummy packages to lure the thief until authorities could catch him in the act.
Surveillance cameras indicated the thief was stealing parcels from lockers at night and on weekends, when the post office is not staffed. Though inspectors recorded a suspect stealing from lockers over a week ago, it was not enough to identify the thief.
Federal inspectors and Dillon Police began a physical surveillance of the post office on Friday night, Cline said, but there was no activity.
“He did not hit Friday night,” Cline said. “He hit Saturday night when there was no surveillance.”
On Monday night, postal inspectors again waited inside the post office and Dillon police waited outside. Augustine allegedly entered the post office and removed several packages from the parcel lockers before leaving in his vehicle, Cline said.
Authorities stopped Augustine and placed him under arrest, he said. They found several items stolen from the Dillon Post Office in his vehicle, in addition to some they believe were stolen from stores in the Denver area.
Augustine’s vehicle – a Chevy pickup with a camper – has been impounded, and authorities are in the process of getting a warrant to search the vehicle. Authorities are continuing the investigation and do not yet know which of the stolen items might be recovered.
The Postal Service will modify the parcel boxes to prevent similar problems in the future.
“It was a good joint investigation and we got the suspect off the streets,” Cline said. “That’s a good ending all around for everybody.”
Lu Snyder can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 203, or firstname.lastname@example.org
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