A bag of heroin and hundreds of unopened envelopes were among the items found in a minivan that police chased down Interstate 95 in Massachusetts early Monday following a string of mail thefts.
Five individuals were arrested Monday morning on a slew of charges related to the pursuit and subsequent discoveries in the van, including stealing from a mailbox and leading officers on a chase, Reading Police Chief David Clark said in a statement.
An officer was on patrol near the post office on Haven Street in Reading around 12:50 a.m. when he saw the red van parked on the roadway with its engine running. He paid special attention to the vehicle due to a recent series of mail thefts from post office boxes, according to the statement.
The officer followed the van onto Main Street as it left the area and saw it cross the double-yellow lines. When the officer activated his car’s emergency lights to pull over the van on Walkers Brook Road, the vehicle first slowed down and then abruptly sped up, eventually leading police onto I-95 southbound, the statement said.
Given the light traffic and dry road conditions, the officer continued his pursuit before the van pulled over along the interstate, according to the Reading Police Department.
Officers from the city, along with Massachusetts State Police, investigated the scene and noticed what they later determined was more than 200 pieces of mail on the front passenger side floorboard of the van. Many of the unopened envelopes contained return addresses in Reading. Scattered among the mail were several open envelopes and checks as well, the department said.
During their investigation, officers found a knotted bag containing a substance they believed to be heroin inside a purse authorities said belonged to the driver, who has since been identified as 21-year-old Michelly Zavala-Escobar.
Several items were seized from the van, including the 200-plus unopened envelopes and bag of heroin as well as 11 loose personal checks, three washed personal checks, nine bank cards and eight packages of marijuana, according to police.
Police said three altered checks valued at more than $4,000 were also found in 18-year-old Brandon Baez’s possession, along with $500-plus in cash and a bank card that did not belong to him. Officers also allegedly seized nearly $200 in cash from 20-year-old Anthony Calceres.
“These officers displayed excellent awareness in recognizing a crime in progress and did a great job safely taking these suspects into custody,” Clark said in his statement.
Baez, Calceres, 23-year-old Duary Moreta Garcia and 21-year-old Alex Perez Gonzalez, all of whom are from Boston, were charged with breaking and entering in the nighttime into a depository, receiving stolen property over $1,200 and common law conspiracy, according to the statement.
Zavala-Escobar, who is from Reading, was also charged with the three violations and charged additionally with illegal possession of a Class A drug, failing to stop for police, driving a car with a suspended license and other traffic-related offenses, police said.
All five individuals were arraigned in Woburn District Court on Monday and released on personal recognizance under the condition they avoid contact with one another. They are due back in court March 24, according to police. The incident remains under investigation.
“These officers were aware that mail theft is a continued problem in ours and many other communities, and that understanding and increased awareness of the signs of this type of crime resulted in the arrest of several suspects and prevented the potential loss of thousands of dollars,” Reading Police Lt. Det. Richard Abate said.
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