ASC student surrenders in mail theft, fraud case

(01-28-2008)

An Adams State College student surrendered to authorities in El Paso County Friday in connection with a series of thefts from the college mail room, according to the college's Director of Public Safety, Dr. Joel Shults. A warrant for the arrest of Joseph Harris, 20, of Colorado Springs, was issued Thursday. Harris is free on $10,000 bond.

Shults said the arrest resulted from several months of investigation by federal authorities and Adams State College police into cases of mail theft and debit card fraud.

Harris had been a workstudy employee in the college mail room, but was suspended from that job January 24.

During the fall 2007 semester, several students reported theft of mail from the college mail room and fraudulent use of debit cards, Shults said. Because such offenses are within the jurisdiction of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, that agency also lent resources and expertise to the investigation.

"This was 21st century crime and required 21st century investigative techniques and some old fashioned detective work," Shults said.

The Alamosa Police Department and the Alamosa Sheriff's Office assisted federal agents and Adams State College police in executing a search warrant at an Alamosa residence on Wednesday in connection with the case. Computer equipment was seized by the Postal Inspectors for forensic examination.

Once the problem was discovered, the college increased mail room security and added a full time staff member to the mail room staff. Procedures were changed to require personal delivery of items that may contain gift cards or cash. Thefts were reduced over the last few months as a result of these measures, Shults said.

By Julie Waechter