Group Sentenced for Roles in Anchorage Mail Theft Ring

Anchorage, Alaska – U.S. Attorney Bryan Schroder announced that six Anchorage residents have been sentenced for their roles in a local mail theft ring.  The two lead defendants were sentenced this week, and were the last of six defendants to be sentenced in this case.

Sara James, 31, was sentenced yesterday to serve 42 months in prison, followed by five years of supervised release, for conspiracy, bank fraud, aggravated identity theft, possession of stolen mail, and passing counterfeit money.  David Gonzales, 37, was sentenced earlier this week to serve 72 months in prison, followed by five years of supervised release, for conspiracy, bank fraud, and aggravated identity theft.

According to court documents, from August 2016 to May 2017, Sara James and her husband, Jonathan James, conspired with Gonzales and others, to steal mail and pass stolen checks with stolen IDs at banks around Anchorage, and to recruit others to help them do the same.  Sara and Jonathan James would take turns driving Gonzales to go “mailboxing,” stealing mail from rows of mailboxes and looking for valuable checks and credit cards.  Most of the stolen checks were then altered to make the payee a separate stolen identity that was used by the defendants to negotiate the stolen checks.  The investigation further revealed that Sara James and Gonzales would share in the proceeds from negotiating the stolen checks, and exchange drugs for stolen mail and IDs.

During the course of the conspiracy, both Sara James and Gonzales were on release pending state charges for the same conduct while continuing to commit new crimes.  In August 2017, federal charges were brought to cover all conduct and include four other co-defendants.  Over the last several months, the following co-conspirators have been sentenced as part of this investigation:

  • Jonathan James, 34, was sentenced to 24 months in prison, followed by five years of supervised release, for conspiracy, bank fraud, aggravated identity theft, possession of stolen mail, and passing counterfeit money;
  • Brandon Madrid, 29, was sentenced to 30 months in prison, followed by five years of supervised release, for conspiracy, bank fraud, and aggravated identity theft;
  • Braden Asbury, 21, was sentenced to one day in prison (credit for time already served), followed by five years of supervised release, for conspiracy and bank fraud; and
  • Karri Embach, 35, was sentenced to time already served and five years of supervised release, for conspiracy and bank fraud.

The U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) and the Anchorage Police Department (APD) conducted the investigation leading to the successful prosecution of this case, with assistance from the Palmer Police Department and the Criminal Investigations Unit of the State of Alaska Department of Revenue.  This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Aunnie Steward.