CHICAGO — Armed robbers targeted two U.S. Postal Service mail carriers in Chicago on Tuesday afternoon, officials confirm. The holdups occurred just a few hours after shots were fired during the robbery of a mail carrier in west suburban River Grove. No injuries were reported.
In Logan Square, a male postal worker was robbed at gunpoint by three men in the 2900 block of West Belden around 2:45 p.m., according to preliminary information. Armed with three firearms, masked men fled in a bronze Kia bearing temporary license tags, a witness reported.
A similar vehicle was used by a group of robbers who tried to rob a man at an ATM in Logan Square about an hour earlier, but it is not known if the incidents are related.
Another mail carrier was targeted as she worked on Tuesday afternoon in the 1400 block of North Cleaver in the Goose Island neighborhood. Two men armed with guns took her phone and her USPS master key, a CPD report said.
A U.S. Postal Inspection Service spokesperson confirmed the locations of Chicago robberies.
Earlier on Tuesday, the inspection service said its agents and River Grove police responded to an armed robbery of a letter carrier in the 8700 block of West Richard Street.
In a statement, River Grove police said a man exited a car around 9:30 a.m. and ordered the postal worker to turn over his keys. As the robber returned to the vehicle, a witness pulled out a gun, and “words and gunshots were exchanged” between the witness and the offender. No one was injured, according to the statement.
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.
“Never put anything into the postal system unless you are comfortable with it landing in the hands of criminals instead of at its intended destination,” an investigative source advised CWBChicago a few months ago.
“Checks, credit cards, PPP loans, and identity theft are the new hustle in urban America,” another source said.
The mail theft problem 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.
Some crews specialize in altering and depositing checks, sometimes multiplying the face value of the note by many times its original amount.
A source said that those teams often operate with the assistance of marginalized people who open checking accounts they do not need.
“The stolen $40 utility payment is changed to $4,000. The halfwit withdraws the money, and the account crashes,” the source explained.