Sheriff tries to connect suspect with mail thefts

Detectives at the Island County Sheriff's Office think they may have caught the man responsible for a number of recent mail thefts in Freeland.

Last Thursday, an Island County deputy arrested a 21-year-old Bainbridge Island man after he was reported by area residents to be rifling through several mailboxes.

Russ Linder, chief of investigations for the sheriff's office, said last week that the man, Gabriel Bendix, could be responsible for a half-dozen thefts of mail reported over the past few weeks.

Bendix was booked on several counts, including burglary, and on a Seattle arrest warrant. Lindner said detectives found that Bendix likely committed a burglary at a Wahl Road home on the same day he was discovered looking through mailboxes.

In addition to the crimes alleged by the sheriff's office, Bendix also faces a Seattle charge for the possession of a controlled substance.

Linder said a pair of binoculars found on Bendix at the time of his arrest match the description of binoculars found missing from a Wahl Road home burglarized earlier in the day. Due to the large number of items stolen from he house, Lindner said, another person might have been involved in that burglary.

In charging Bendix with mail theft, the sheriff's office is pursuing a crime that is quickly becoming more serious, Lindner said. Bank account and credit card numbers stolen from the mail can turn into quick cash for criminals and long-term financial nightmares for victims.

Bendix is now awaiting trial in Island County Superior Court for the burglary and mail theft charges. He is in the Island County Jail on $15,000 bond.

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