Two Florida men have been arrested and charged with taking mail, including ballots, from a drop-off box.
The incident took place in Lighthouse Point in Broward County, where police became suspicious after a vehicle lingered near a post office around 11:30 p.m. Tuesday, according to WPLG-TV.
The station reported that police were on alert because the boxes had been targeted for mail theft during the past year.
Police said that when an officer approached the vehicle, it fled.
The vehicle was later stopped. At that time, one of the occupants tried to hide something from the officer.
Police later found a bundle of mail and two ballots that were kept separate from the other mail.
Police said the suspects in the case admitted getting the mail from one of the boxes.
Junior Alexander Cabral, 28, and Vladimir Cabral-Cuevas, 20, of Opa Locka, were arrested and charged with third-degree felonies, including tampering with a ballot box and fraud.
#UPDATE These are the two men Lighthouse Point police say stole mail – including ballots – from post office boxes overnight. Ahead at 5pm, why attorneys say they were incorrectly charged @nbc6 pic.twitter.com/vLIew5XSE7
— Marissa Bagg (@MarissaNBC6) October 29, 2020
Police also recovered a bag containing a bottle wrapped in duct tape with a rope attached to it. They believe it was a homemade device used to retrieve mail from a drop-off box.
According to WPLG, U.S. Postal Inspector Bladisimir Rojo showed reporters a similar contraption — with the sticky side of the tape facing out — during a 2016 interview.
“They drop it in the box with the goal to have the mail stick to the tape. And then they pull it out,” he said.
Rojo said one variant for stealing mail was a device built from a pillowcase taped to a coat hanger.
“The mail thief placed it at the mouth of the box. Customers couldn’t see it and [the mail] would go into the sack then he’d be able to pull it out,” he said.
During a Thursday hearing on the charges, Broward County Judge Corey Amanda Cawthon said the incident was concerning because it came so close to Election Day, according to the Sun-Sentinel.
“I’m not going to speculate as to the intentions behind the allegations, what mail was intended to be recovered or not,” she said. “But I do have to take notice of the fact we have a very big election coming up next week and the timing seems to be aggravating in Mr. Cabral’s case.”
The two were each released on $3,025 bail.
Police said the ballots were returned to the individuals who cast them so they could be delivered properly and counted.
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