‘Bait’ package leads to arrest of suspected thief

Police and federal agents stopped an alleged Oak Harbor Grinch who was trying to steal Christmas from a few families this week.

The U.S. Postal Service worked with Oak Harbor police officers to catch a mail thief by using a package with a tracker inside as bait, according to court documents.

Postal Inspector John Wiegand said the federal office was targeting mail thieves in the city this week because of a high number of complaints. The federal agents are also running operations in five other cities across the state this week.

Postal inspectors staged a bait parcel containing a GPS tracker on the porch of a home on Northwest Scenic Vista Street. Just before 1:30 a.m. Wednesday, the parcel starting moving.

An Oak Harbor police officer responded to the area and saw a man carrying a white package with a handle.

The officer stopped the man, who was identified as 30-year-old Christopher B. Masters, and affirmed that he was carrying the bait package, according to the officer’s report.

The package contained electronics valued at $1,000, which makes the theft a felony.

The officers also found three checks and a debit card that belonged to other people, as well as a Girls Scouts supply voucher, in Masters’ jacket pocket, the report indicates.

The officers contacted the owners of the checks and debit cards; one woman said she had been waiting for the check because she didn’t have any money for Christmas, the report states.

Postal inspectors are also hoping to obtain a search warrant to look through Masters’ backpack.

Masters appeared in Island County Superior Court Dec. 18 and the judge found probable cause existed to believe he committed the crimes of theft in the first agree, possession of stolen property in the first degree and possession of stolen property in the second degree. His bail was set at $10,000.

Wiegand said the purpose of the anti-porch theft operations is not only to catch the bad guys but to prevent mail theft from happening in the first place.

“We’re seen that it can be a deterrent for some people,” he said.

“You never know when a law enforcement agency and federal agents are going to swoop down on you.”