Salem man accused of stealing enormous amount of mail faces federal charges 

Police searching a south Salem home on Monday seized fake mailbox keys, financial documents and around 30 pounds of mail as part of a longtime investigation into mail theft in the Salem area.

The arrest of a 33-year-old Salem man accused of stealing the mail comes after Salem residents shared concerns for years about their mailboxes being broken into.

Ross B. Sierzega was arrested on charges of possessing a firearm and body armor as a felon, unlawful possession of a short-barreled shotgun, identity theft, forgery, criminal possession of a forged instrument and possessing burglary tools. He also had 11 outstanding warrants for his arrest. 

The U.S. Marshals Service took custody of Sierzega, according to a Tuesday news release from the Salem Police Department.

Police searched Sierzega’s apartment in the 3300 block of Southeast Crawford Street with the help of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

They seized two lock cores taken from multi-address mail boxes, several counterfeit mail box keys and tools used to make them, multiple checks, bank cards, and financial documents not in Sierzega’s name, and about 30 pounds of mail.

The U.S. Postal Service lists a standard letter as weighing about 1 ounce. That would mean 30 pounds of letter mail equals roughly 480 pieces.

Police also seized a short-barreled shotgun and home-made body armor from the apartment, according to the news release.

Sierzega’s arrest and the subsequent search were part of a nearly two-year investigation by Salem police into local mail theft.

He appeared Tuesday in U.S. District Court on a warrant based on charges of mail theft, aggravated identity theft and five counts of bank fraud. Under federal law, making counterfeit mail keys carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison if convicted.

The charges allege that Sierzega used stolen credit cards to withdraw at least $16,000 from Wells Fargo accounts in early 2023. He is also accused of working with a person not identified in the indictment to steal from a mailbox on North Rivercrest Drive in Keizer.

Salem detectives plan to contact victims over the next several weeks about returning their stolen mail seized from the apartment. 

“I know so many residents have been directly impacted in recent years all across our city as victims of this far too prevalent and pernicious crime,” Salem Police Chief Trevor Womack said in the news release. “The suspect’s arrest hopefully brings some sense of justice to victims and signals to those who would steal mail and commit fraud that we take these crimes seriously.”

A Marion County grand jury indicted Sierzega in late November on two counts of mail theft. 

He was also indicted in September on nine counts of fraudulent use of a credit card and aggravated first-degree theft, accused of stealing over $10,000.

All of the state charges were dismissed last month after being transferred to federal court, according to Marion County court records.

Court records show Sierzega has failed to appear in state court on multiple charges dating back to 2018 for second-degree theft, failure to appear on a criminal citation and unlawful possession of heroin.

He pleaded guilty in 2017 to second-degree theft, and in 2012 to unauthorized use of a vehicle, second-degree burglary, first-degree criminal mischief and driving under the influence of intoxicants, according to state court records.

This story was updated with new information from federal court documents.

Contact reporter Ardeshir Tabrizian: [email protected] or 503-929-3053.

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Ardeshir Tabrizian has covered criminal justice and housing for Salem Reporter since September 2021. As an Oregon native, his award-winning watchdog journalism has traversed the state. He has done reporting for The Oregonian, Eugene Weekly and Malheur Enterprise.