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The San Juan County Sheriff's Office served five search warrants and issued 14 arrests warrants on Feb. 28 in connection to an alleged racketeering ring. Magdalena Wegrzyn/The Daily Times

Probe led to recovery of about 1,400 pieces of stolen mail

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AZTEC — Two members of the San Juan County Sheriff's Office have been recognized by the U.S. Postal Service for their efforts in investigating a series of post office burglaries last year that led to about 1,400 pieces of mail being recovered.

Detective Andrew Gilbert and crime scene technician Sandra Richardson received certificates of appreciation from the Albuquerque office of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service for investigating six burglaries and one attempted burglary at five county post office locations in July and November 2015.

It was part of a six-month investigation conducted by the San Juan County Sheriff's Office and Farmington Police Department into an alleged criminal ring in which 14 suspects were charged in connection with a series of thefts of items including ATMs, taxidermy mounts, vehicles and firearms.

The county post offices were among the alleged larcenies and burglaries at residences, businesses and government agencies, including county solid waste stations.

More: Police arrest eight in San Juan County crime ring

Melisa Llosa, inspector in charge of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service office in Albuquerque, sent a letter to Sheriff Ken Christesen thanking the sheriff's office for its assistance in helping the office investigate the burglaries.

"It's nice to get that recognition from them," Gilbert said. "It feels good, but at the same time, I'm just trying to work and do my job."

The burglaries occurred at the U.S. Post Office locations in Blanco, Waterflow and Navajo Dam. The attempted burglary took place at the Fruitland location. Mail and money were allegedly stolen from some of the locations.

More: New details released in alleged criminal ring

Richardson and Gilbert said they participated in the investigation of the burglaries, processing the crime scenes and sending their evidence and reports to the U.S. Postal Service.

But it was interviews with suspect Travis "Shine" Brewton that helped authorities get an idea of the scale of his alleged criminal ring, Gilbert said.

"When we got him into an interview room, he really told us the full story of what was going on," Gilbert said. "We had an idea of what he was doing, but not to that extent. He was doing far more than we anticipated."

Brewton, along with suspects Marcos Herrera, Aaron Brown and Jeremy Davis, were charged in connection with the alleged burglaries on April 2.

Three of the men — Brewton, Brown and Davis — admitted to committing the alleged burglaries during interviews with law enforcement personnel, according to Gilbert.

He added the sheriff's office has not been able to interview Herrera, who is currently in custody at a detention facility in La Plata County, Colo. 

More: New burglary charges filed in alleged crime ring

It was Brown who told police the general area where the stolen mail had been dumped, according to court documents. He led police to a canyon near the Harvest Gold subdivision, east of Bloomfield.

Gilbert and Richardson discovered the site where the stolen mail was dumped on Nov. 30. Gilbert searched the area by helicopter, guiding Richardson, who was driving a patrol vehicle, to the site. About 1,400 pieces of mail that belonged to more than 280 victims were found in the snow.

Richardson said she believes postal employees made copies of the mail and shared the copies with the victims because the snow damaged the recovered mail.

Gilbert declined to comment on the specific motivations of the alleged suspects who committed the post office burglaries. He added criminals typically steal mail to collect information for identity theft or to steal checks and credit cards to commit fraud.

The cases for Brewton and Brown are pending in district court, and Herrera's remains in Aztec Magistrate Court.

Davis was recently given a 34-year-and-six-month suspended sentence as part of a plea agreement for six sets of charges, according to court documents. Two of the cases stem from his part in the criminal ring.

For the post office burglary charges, Davis pleaded guilty to a conspiracy to commit nonresidential burglary felony count and was sentenced to 18 months in state prison. 

Judge Karen Townsend's order filed in district court on June 29 states Davis will have supervised probation for five years.

Joshua Kellogg covers crime, courts and social issues for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627.

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