WJTV News Channel 12 - Pasco Sheriff: 900 victims in mail theft case

Pasco Sheriff: 900 victims in mail theft case

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Brian Michael Chapman, 30, is suspected of stealing mail. Pasco County Jail booking photo Brian Michael Chapman, 30, is suspected of stealing mail. Pasco County Jail booking photo
3,000 pieces of mail were stolen in the Tampa Bay area. Pasco Sheriff's Office photo 3,000 pieces of mail were stolen in the Tampa Bay area. Pasco Sheriff's Office photo
3,000 pieces of mail were stolen in the Tampa Bay area.  Pasco Sheriff's Office photo 3,000 pieces of mail were stolen in the Tampa Bay area. Pasco Sheriff's Office photo
3,000 pieces of mail were stolen in the Tampa Bay area.  Pasco Sheriff's Office photo 3,000 pieces of mail were stolen in the Tampa Bay area. Pasco Sheriff's Office photo
3,000 pieces of mail were stolen in the Tampa Bay area.  Pasco Sheriff's Office photo 3,000 pieces of mail were stolen in the Tampa Bay area. Pasco Sheriff's Office photo
PASCO COUNTY, FL (WFLA) - Nearly a thousand people in Pasco County were victims of a career criminal who stole their mail, say detectives.

Investigators say they caught Brian Chipman in the Gulf Harbors neighborhood when someone saw him driving around early in the morning.  They say Chipman was stopping frequently, without lights on, or a front plate on his overdue, rented SUV. 

Detectives say he stole mail with credit or gift cards, bank statements, or tax information. 

"Right now, you might not know you're a victim but if you check your credit report, if you go on line and something doesn't seem right,  notify your local sheriff's office it may be connected to this case," said Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco.
 
8 On Your Side visited a homeowner's meeting at Gulf Harbors. This reporter told a large group about the arrest, and how to protect themselves from mail theft.  I also met two women who believe they could be victims of Chipman.

One resident sent checks to pay her Sears bill, and others for her grandsons.

"They didn't get the checks.  Sears didn't get the checks so they called me up and said 'you owe us extra'. I said 'I sent you a check'.  'We didn't get it so you owe us interest'," said Maryann Hellwinkel.

Another resident sent mortgage and health insurance payments that never arrived.

"Plus, we noticed over the holidays there were lot of Christmas cards that we didn't get from people we've heard from for years and years," said Ruth Elin Rieley.

Chipman isn't the only one facing charges. While in jail, the Sheriff says he called his girlfriend, Shelly Johnson.

"He tells her, 'we should really have a bonfire'.  Which was the clear indication that the needed to go burn some more personal identification," said Sheriff Nocco.

Racing to the home, Nocco says a deputy found burning paperwork, and more evidence of mail thefts.

The Pasco County Sheriff's Office is also looking for related cases. Detectives think the suspect was involved in check fraud, credit card fraud, tax fraud, and identity theft.

Chipman is currently being held at the Land O Lakes Detention Center with bond set at $10,000.

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