FORT SMITH (KFSM) — A Fort Smith man accused of stealing several Amazon packages from a woman's porch in November could face a federal charge of mail theft.
An agent with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service said that John Michael Clement admitted to stealing packages delivered by the United States Postal Service, which is a federal offense, according to a criminal complaint unsealed last month in U.S. District Court.
Amazon packages, unless insured or requiring a signature, are shipped under the USPS Carrier Release Program, which allows packages to be left at a residence even when no one is home, according to the complaint.
Fort Smith police arrested Clement and Kimberly Husman on Nov. 23 after a tip led them to Husman's car, which contained stolen property from several burglary and fraud cases.
Clement hasn't been indicted for mail theft but is charged in Sebastian County Circuit Court with theft of property, breaking or entering and two counts of possession of a controlled substance.
Husman also faces charges of second-degree forgery, theft of property and failure to appear.
Last month, Arkansas U.S. attorneys Cody Hiland and Dak Kees announced Operation Porch Pirate, a statewide federal initiative to catch and prosecute mail thieves.
Authorities have said several local cases of mail theft can end up as misdemeanor offenses if only prosecuted in the state system.
“We know that mail thieves do not take off for the holidays. In fact, this is their busiest time of year,” Hiland said.
"We want to work closely with our local partners to bring these thieves to justice. This is a crime having a significant impact on our local communities, and it is a painful one to hard-working families."
Under Operation Porch Pirate, after a local agency makes a state arrest, the case will be referred to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, which will, in turn, send the case to the U.S. attorneys' offices for review for federal prosecution, Hiland said.
Although the operation started during the holidays, Hiland and Kees said their offices would be regularly reviewing mail theft cases submitted by local law enforcement agencies for possible federal prosecution.
“Our message to thieves this holiday season is simple: If it’s not yours, don’t take it," said Mona Hernandez, a team leader with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
"(The) announcement should serve as a warning to would-be thieves that there are significant consequences for anyone who intends to steal mail."
A conviction for mail theft is punishable by up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Clement and Husman were being held on bonds of $22,000 and $9,000, respectively, at the Sebastian County Detention Center.