Every day, our journalism dismantles barriers and shines a light on the critical overlooked and under-reported issues important to all North Carolinians.
Before you go …
If you like what you are reading and believe in independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism like ours—journalism the way it should be—please contribute to keep us going. Reporting like this isn’t free to produce and we cannot do this alone. Thank you!
Sprawling stacks of paper, envelopes, boxes and other material littered the rooms of Erik Raymond Magana’s Charlotte apartment where the U.S. Department of Justice says he hoarded mail – other people’s mail.
The 34-year-old Mecklenburg County resident received a federal sentence Tuesday of 42 months in prison plus a year on suspended release because of the thousands of pieces of mail he has admitted to stealing as part of a plea deal on charges of mail theft and identity theft that he accepted last year.
He will also be required to pay $77,304 in restitution to the banks he used to convert stolen checks: SunTrust and Wells Fargo. But the government’s sentencing memorandum estimated an intended loss of $546,713 for the items he took from 1,300 known mailboxes and potentially many more that remain unknown.
This does not include valuables the government reported finding in his residence and on his person, including a $233,000 undeposited IRS refund check belonging to someone else.
The mail theft scheme
Magana targeted mostly affluent neighborhoods of Mecklenburg and Gaston counties, as well as the Fort Mill, S.C., area, according to the Department of Justice.
Magana’s mail theft spree ran from “at least” 2016 to 2018, according to the Department of Justice, which also described “a large number of mail theft complaints with the Postal Service Inspection Service” from victims around Charlotte.
Magana has admitted to committing identity theft by depositing stolen checks and using stolen credit cards.
While authorities found a large amount of mail at Magana’s apartment, the Postal Service Inspection Service reported recovering stolen mail dumped in cul-de-sacs. A receipt with Magana’s name on it found in one of these dumps helped draw the attention of authorities.
A theft victim also made a video recording of someone driving a dark Mercedes-Benz rifling through mailboxes overnight. A partial license plate in the video helped identify Magana.
Later, postal inspectors reported placing a tracker on Magana’s car for about a week, during which he was tracked driving around Charlotte-area communities on mail delivery days. Postal inspectors also said they personally observed him seizing mail.
Exactly how many people were victims of Magana’s mail and identity theft schemes remains unclear. “The government was challenged in ascertaining the names of all of the victims and the full scope of stolen check because the defendant’s apartment was unsanitary,” the Government Sentencing Memorandum said, later adding that many of the thousands of items in Magana’s apartment were “soiled by bugs, maggots or dog feces.”
“This was the largest recovery of stolen mail conducted by the (U.S. Postal Inspection Service) in the Charlotte region in at least 15 years,” said Department of Justice spokesperson Lia Bantavani in a statement released Tuesday.
U.S. Attorney Andrew Murray credited the U.S. Postal Inspection Service of Charlotte, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department and the Charlotte Financial Crimes Task Force for their joint work on the case.
You can strengthen independent, in-depth and investigative news for all of North Carolina
Carolina Public Press is transforming from a regionally focused nonprofit news organization to the go-to independent, in-depth and investigative news arm for North Carolina. You are critical to this transformation — and the future of investigative and public interest reporting for all North Carolinians.
Unlike many others, we aren’t owned by umbrella organizations or corporations. And we haven’t put up a paywall — we believe that fact-based, context-rich watchdog journalism is a vital public service. But we need your help. Carolina Public Press’ in-depth, investigative and public interest journalism takes a lot of money, persistence and hard work to produce. We are here because we believe in and are dedicated to the future of North Carolina.
So, if you value independent, in-depth and investigative reporting in the public interest for North Carolina, please take a moment to make a tax-deductible contribution. It only takes a minute and makes a huge difference. Thank you!