GARNER, Iowa – An accused mail thief has been arrested.
Carl Douglas Werstein, 36 of Leland, is charged with ongoing criminal conduct, 3rd degree theft, and 4th degree theft. Charges were filed on Monday and Werstein was arrested Friday in Forest City.
The Hancock County Sheriff’s Office says it began receiving complaints in January of mail being stolen from rural mailboxes. There were initial reports of seven thefts from four separate mailboxes and the Sheriff’s Office says the investigation identified four additional victims.
Werstein became a suspect in these crimes and law enforcement says it set up a sting to catch the mail thief. Two items were placed in a mailbox monitored by authorities on March 18 and a deputy says Werstein drove up to the mailbox around 4 am and took the “trap mail.”
Werstein’s vehicle was then stopped and searched. Law enforcement says they not only found the “trap mail” from the sting but a package under the driver’s seat holding multiple envelopes with addresses from throughout rural Hancock County.
In total, Werstein is accused of stealing from 12 different mailboxes, sometimes stealing from the same place multiple times. The Sheriff’s Office says these thefts happened between December 2017 and March 18 and the items taken ranged from less than $100 in value to $995, with several worth more than $200. Authorities say the stolen material included checks and gift cards.
Ongoing criminal conduct is a class “B” felony, punishable in Iowa by up to 25 years in prison, while 3rd degree theft is an aggravated misdemeanor and 4th degree theft is a serious misdemeanor.