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FAIRBANKS - An investigation is under way in the Fairbanks area of several hundred reports of mail tampering and theft.
Cases range in severity from displaced mail being found at the side of the road to stolen checks and credit cards that have been used to purchase thousands of dollars worth of items from local businesses.
Authorities began looking into the mail thefts last month after Fairbanks International Airport police arrested a man who claimed he had traded methamphetamine for other people's mail.
Local law enforcement officials said more reports of mail theft have been coming in for about two months now.
The recent thefts are probably for money to buy drugs and electronics, said Fairbanks police detective Scott Adams.
While Fairbanks police are only investigating a handful of cases, troopers say they have received about 700 complaints about missing or tampered mail. Most of the mail theft seems to be occurring in the lesser-populated areas around Fairbanks.
Authorities said they have several suspects, but no charges have been filed yet.
If there are indeed people stealing credit cards and checks from the mail to obtain drugs, it would not be the first time such a group has targeted Fairbanks. In 2006, Alaska law enforcement broke up a ring of about 10 people who they say stole checks and credit cards from mail boxes in the Goldstream Valley, North Pole and Chena Hot Springs Road areas.