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They were just children when Allied Forces defeated fascism.

They witnessed four terms with Franklin D. Roosevelt, experienced the horror and despair with the assignations of John F. Kennedy, Dr. Martin Luther King and finally Bobbie Kennedy.

They made their way through good times and turbulent times in America following written and unwritten laws, when a handshake was as good as a written contract. Put simply, they know right from wrong.

One of those laws they have always adhered to — you don’t open someone else’s mail.

Two women in Ellensburg experienced just that in recent weeks, receiving mail in their PO boxes that had already been opened. Because of concerns of identity theft or feelings of exposure to retaliation, they asked their names not be revealed.

One woman, a volunteer book keeper with the Wheaton Court Home Owner’s Association, received two vouchers addressed to the association. Both documents were mailed to the Wheaton Court PO box, which can only be opened with a key.

“The letter was slit across the top very neatly,” she said. “Inside were a couple of invoices that had already been paid to a company we do business with. One of them was exactly like the one I previously received from the company.

“The other document was different. The original had trimming on it. But the one that came already opened did not have the trimming. It was different than the original. They weren’t asking for more money, it just showed up already opened, then stapled shut.”

The other woman, a friend of the book keeper, moved to Ellensburg less than a year ago. She lives nearby. Her experience was different in that she received seven pieces of private mail delivered to her locked mail box. Like the book keeper’s invoices, all seven pieces of her private mail had been sliced open very methodically as not to damage the envelop.

“There wasn’t anything particularly important about them. It’s not like they were trying to steal my Social Security check or anything. It’s just that I have never had anything like this happen before,” she said. “I grew up with the idea that a handshake was like a contract and you never, ever opened mail that wasn’t yours.

“In fact, if my neighbor’s mail accidentally showed up in my box or if I got mail delivered to someone that used to live there, I’d always put return to sender and get it back to the post office for re-delivery.”

According to, doing anything at all to someone else’s mail is a felony. Federal law makes it illegal to take, steal, intercept, open, damage or destroy someone else’s mail, or impede the delivery of mail. The charges are mail theft or obstruction of correspondence. Both crimes carry fines of up to $250,000 and five years in a federal prison.

According to the Law Dictionary, the U.S. Postal Service is mainly concerned with mail that is stolen from its custody. In other words, once they have delivered mail to your box, no longer in their possession, they are relying on patrons to react appropriately if correspondence has been mishandled.

The two women filed a complaint with the Ellensburg Police Department, which according to them, conducted a brief investigation.

“I wouldn’t say there has been a rash of (people receiving already-opened mail), because I would know about it,” EPD Capt. Dan Hansberry said. “I’m not aware of any mass scam that’s going on throughout the city.”

The investigation did not sit well with either complainant.

“It’s obvious there is some hanky panky going on,” one woman said. “So, we filed a police report and they supposedly called over to the post office to talk with (Ellensburg post master general) April (Barry) something about it. We received a call back from the police department, saying they had concluded it was probably a one-time deal. Neither seemed particularly interested in looking into it further.

“I even went down to the post office and waited in line. I asked the front office people for April (Barry’s) phone number and contact information. She wouldn’t even come out of her office. Then they gave me the general phone number that I’d been calling all day that no one answered.”

They were persistent in their effort, coming down to the Daily Record office.

“We’re just trying to warn people or at least tell them to come forward if the same thing happens to them,” the book keeper said. “What happened to me seems like a scam or maybe someone trying to set something up. But it’s just not right to get mail delivered to you that’s already been opened.”


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