SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif. - A brazen case of mail theft in a Santa Barbara County neighborhood was all caught on camera. It’s all thanks to one resident who was determined to catch the suspect
It’s a security tactic residents resorted to after months of mail thefts in a small neighborhood off of Painted Cave Road and Highway 154.
The resident, who is remaining anonymous, says she set up cameras and sensors to catch the suspect, identified as 41-year-old Melissa Wheeler from Santa Paula.
“We have three instances we caught on camera and it’s a single female and so she takes the time to go through and pulls what she wants and throws what she doesn’t,” said the anonymous woman.
The woman and other neighbors say Wheeler stole mail six times over the past four months, and it’s not just their neighborhood.
“Neighbors here have had their bank accounts compromised, medications have been stolen and this is not just for this community it’s also west Camino Cielo, Paradise Road, Stagecoach Road, they are all getting hit and this has been a widespread thing.”
The thefts even spread to areas hard-hit in Montecito. The woman says mail from that community showed up in her neighborhood mailboxes miles away.
The Santa Barbara County Sheriffs Office confirmed reports of mail thefts in the mudslide exclusion zone.
“It’s especially troubling and concerning that this individual would not only steal mail but to take advantage of people during a difficult time to go into a disaster area where people are recovering from the unimaginable,” said Public Information Officer, Kelly Hoover. “To go in there and take from those people is definitely hard to understand.”
Santa Barbara County Sheriff's officials say the best way to protect against mail theft is to put a lock on your mailbox. Do not try to rig it to catch someone, as that could cause harm.
Wheeler was booked into the Santa Barbara County Jail on $50,000 bail.