MURRIETA (CNS) – A convicted felon accused of stealing hundreds of checks, money orders, bonds and other items by breaking into post office drop boxes pleaded not guilty today to identity theft and other felonies.
Stephen Michael Brayley, 35, of Hemet was arrested in March after an investigation by the Riverside County Gang Task Force.
Along with two counts of identity theft, Brayley is charged with forgery and possession of methamphetamine.
He was arraigned before Superior Court Judge Stephen Gallon, who scheduled a felony settlement conference for Sept. 11 at the Riverside Hall of Justice.
The defendant is being held on $30,000 bail at the Byrd Detention Center in Murrieta.
According to Hemet police Sgt. Bob Nishida, gang investigators spotted Brayley driving in the 400 block of Florida Avenue the night of March 24 and became suspicious that he might be engaged in illegal activity.
Nishida said they stopped his vehicle and detained the defendant and another party, whose identity was not disclosed.
Brayley was confirmed to have several arrest warrants for missed court appearances on cases related to counterfeiting and theft, and he was taken into custody, while the other party was released, Nishida said.
According to the sergeant, a search of the vehicle turned up “numerous personal checks, cashier’s checks, money orders, savings bonds and other documents not belonging to Brayley.”
“There was evidence of identity theft, check fraud and grand theft,” Nishida said. “A small amount of methamphetamine was also recovered. There was a total of 340 personal checks, cashier’s checks, money orders and savings bonds believed to be stolen.”
The U.S. Postal Service Inspector’s Office was notified, he said.
According to the sergeant, the ensuing investigation revealed that the defendant had allegedly targeted the blue stand-alone drop boxes in front of the following locations:
— Chino Hills Post Office on Peyton Drive;
— Hardman Post Office on Arlington Avenue, Riverside;
— Moreno Valley Post Office on Alessandro Avenue;
— Palm Desert Post Office on Hovley Lane; and
— San Jacinto Post Office on Esplanade Avenue.
Investigators are continuing to track down victims.
According to court records, Brayley has prior convictions in Riverside County for being in possession of contraband in a correctional facility and parole violations.