FOX23 investigates why collections boxes at Tulsa post offices remain closed

TULSA, Okla. — After getting several tips, FOX23 is investigating what’s going on at post offices in Tulsa. Typically, you can drive through and drop your mail in blue collection boxes, but there are three Tulsa locations where you can no longer do that.

Near 71st and Lewis, 91st and Sheridan, and 51st and Sheridan, the post office collection boxes are closed.

FOX23′s Investigative Team has been looking into this issue since last year and provided a follow up with what’s happening now.

In 2021, people pulled up to drop their mall in the blue collection boxes at the 51st and Sheridan Post Office. But right now, that’s not an option. The slots where you could normally drop in your mail are covered with boxes.

Paul Ecker, a U.S. postal inspector, told FOX23 the post office had to close them down to protect people and their mail.

“I don’t like thieves,” Ecker said.

In December 2021, FOX23 reported on this same problem happening at the same post office. At the time, FOX23 Investigative Reporter Janna Clark stuck her own envelope inside the collection box to figure out how thieves were able to access the mail.

“When I put my envelope in, there’s sticky stuff right there on the inside,” Clark said. “I can feel it with my hand.”

When Clark reached inside, she felt sticky residue. It was so sticky, the envelope got stuck to the inside of the box instead of falling down the chute. She recalled that she could feel other people’s envelopes stuck to the side, so she yanked them off and made sure they fell down the chute.

It turned out that the sticky residue was evidence of a crime — known as mail phishing.

Ecker said the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) is working to retrofit the collection boxes to combat people trying to steal mail this way.

But in April, a viewer sent Clark a photo of a rope hanging out of the collection box.

“Well, if that rope was still hanging there, then that sounds like it was properly defeated,” Ecker said. “The box ate their fishing device.”

But now, Ecker said the problem in Tulsa is not mail fishing.

“Individuals who were actually forcing, attempting to pry open doors and force entry,” he explained.

This has happened three different times at three different locations — 71st and Lewis, 91st and Sheridan, and 51st and Sheridan.

At those post offices, the openings to the collection boxes are taped off and closed to the public. At these offices, you can see where someone tried to pry off the doors on these collection boxes.

Ecker said USPS is working to combat these thefts.

“We’re going to use everything within our resources to investigate these fully,” he told FOX23.

FOX23 asked if USPS was setting up surveillance cameras around the post offices, but Ecker declined to give specifics.

“So I’m not gonna speak specifically to, you know, investigative techniques that we use, or where we have cameras or don’t have cameras,” Ecker said. “But rest assured, we utilize everything we can.”

Ecker said what helps them most is when people report their mail stolen.

A Tulsa man told FOX23 that someone stole and cashed his check for $43. He said he dropped it in a collection box at 51st and Sheridan.

“Postal inspectors are out there, and we will investigate the,. We will find people, and we will prosecute them,” Ecker said.

FOX23 checked in with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Tulsa. In 2021, they charged Tommy Deen Kinas and Amanda Grace Marie Killian with several felonies, including “theft of mail.”

The indictment said Kinas stole “mail, letters and packages” from two Tulsa post offices. It also said he “deposited checks” in an account that Killian opened.

In total, the couple stole around $64,000.

In April, both pleaded guilty to one of the charges — conspiracy to commit bank fraud.

They’re waiting to be sentenced, and they could each go to prison for up to 30 years.

Right now, the safest thing to do is to go inside the post office and make sure the mail is actually making it to USPS workers.

Ecker said they will fix the collection boxes and re-open them as soon as they can.