Couple charged with using postal service keys to burglarize Chicago mailrooms

CHICAGO — A Chicago man with a history of ID theft and forgery, charged in April with repeatedly burglarizing the mailroom of a Lincoln Square condo building, is now linked to two more mailroom break-ins from 2021, according to court records. And it’s interesting how police put the new case together.

Alex Petik, 35, was charged this spring with burglarizing a mailroom in the 4800 block of North Bell four times in October and November. Two days after the last break-in, one of the residents learned that someone was trying to open multiple credit card accounts in their name.

A Lincolnwood Police Department sergeant and a U.S. Postal Inspector recognized the thief as Petik, prosecutors said.

A backpack he was carrying when police arrested him in April allegedly contained a Russian passport, two fake IDs with his photo but other people’s personal information, four credit cards with different names, five checks issued to various businesses and individuals, and 14.2 grams of suspected crystal methamphetamine.

Judge Susana Ortiz released him on electronic monitoring with no monetary bail required.

But when Petik didn’t show up for his court date on June 12, Judge Peggy Chiampas put out a warrant for his arrest. Police found him a few days later in the suburbs.

Officials say he had used a phony driver’s license with someone else’s name and birthday on it to rent a U-Haul in Chicago, which he drove to an Infiniti dealership in Hoffman Estates with 35-year-old Amanda Solis.

Petik parked the truck behind the dealership, and Solis went inside, using a fake ID bearing her picture and another woman’s personal information to apply for a car loan, Hoffman Estates police said in criminal complaints.

Alex Petik and Amanda Solis | Chicago Police Department; Cook County sheriff’s office

Prosecutors charged them both with forgery and other counts.

Now, U.S. Postal Inspectors, working with surveillance videos, have determined that Petik and Solis teamed up to burglarize the mailrooms of two residential complexes in December 2021, according to court records.

In a new complaint filed this week, officials said the duo used postal service master keys, known as “arrow keys,” to break into mailrooms in the 1900 block of South Michigan and the 2100 block of West Wellington on December 15, 2021.

Prosecutors charged both of them with two counts of burglary for the new allegations.

Petik is currently being held without bail in two cases, plus a $105,000 bail on three others. Solis is held without bail in three cases plus $35,000 in three others.

Mail problems

Mail theft by crews using stolen postal service master keys has become so widespread that the U.S. Postal Service has advised people not to put mail into its blue mailboxes after the last collection time.

Mail thieves might occasionally score a valuable package or an envelope containing a birthday gift card from someone’s grandma. But experts say the real value comes from identity theft and check fraud mills, which use information from stolen mail to steal people’s identities and checks.

Armed men have frequently robbed mail carriers of their “arrow keys” in Chicago. Some keys are stolen from the postal service in less violent ways. Some counterfeit keys have also popped up.

Highly organized identity theft and fraud organizations use stolen postal service master keys, called “arrow keys,” to steal large volumes of mail from public mailboxes and residential building mailrooms.

In May, a joint operation involving postal inspectors and Chicago police netted an arrest after investigators allegedly saw a man use an arrow key to steal mail from one of the postal service’s ubiquitous blue mailboxes in the West Loop.

And in March, another man was charged with possessing two forged postal service master keys, also known as “arrow keys,” during a traffic stop on the North Side. Prosecutors said the man also had a trove of financial information, including W2 forms and checks.

Prosecutors charged another man in February with burglarizing the mailroom of a single Lakeview apartment building 14 times in nine weeks. Patrick Slagel allegedly admitted to being a “jogger,” the slang term for people who collect bulk mail in theft scams, and to using postal service master keys that were either provided by relatives of USPS employees or were bought or stolen.

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