SALT LAKE CITY — He was supposed to be delivering parcels to businesses.
Instead, the U.S. Postal Service says a man who worked for a delivery service in Utah was dropping off packages — specifically ones that contained cellphones — in the back of his car.
Now investigators believe Hector Armando Cortes, 34, of West Valley City, could be responsible for stealing more than 400 parcels throughout Salt Lake and Utah counties.
Cortes, who contracted with OnTrac shipping company, was arrested Thursday and booked into the Salt Lake County Jail for investigation of felony mail theft, culminating an extensive investigation by the U.S. postal inspector and West Valley police.
By Monday afternoon, Cortes was formally charged in 4th District Court with engaging in a pattern of unlawful activity and mail theft, both second-degree felonies.
"OnTrac is a company contracted to deliver mail for certain private businesses, including AT&T, Victoria Secret, NewEgg, and Newgistics," according to court documents.
Cortes was first identified as a possible suspect by his own company in January, according to charging documents.
"OnTrac reported that in 2018, over 450 AT&T phones had gone missing from one of their routes in Lehi," the charges state. "They identified the contract driver for this route as Hector Cortes."
"The loss value to OnTrac Logistics has been reported to exceed $80,000," according to a police affidavit.
As the seven-month investigation into the missing parcels progressed, detectives began monitoring Cortes.
"Cortes was observed on multiple occasions transferring items from his delivery truck to his personal vehicle," the charges state.
On March 6, investigators left a parcel with no tracking information at the Lehi Post Office. In the parcel was a laptop and GPS tracker. The proper procedure for packages with no tracking information is to return it to the post office, the charges state. Cortes, however, allegedly took it to his house.
Investigators searched Cortes' home and found several laptops, five cellphones— three of them still in their boxes — "and several items still in packaging, including clothing, shoes and Victoria Secret lingerie," the charges state.
In his personal car, "dozens of articles of clothing, most of which were new or still in their original packaging" were recovered, according to charging documents. "Investigators also found at least 112 phones (82 iPhones of various types and 30 other smart phones). Dozens of these phones were found in AT&T boxes or packaging. Finally, four HP laptops were recovered which appeared to have been associated with QVC orders."
The police affidavit also notes that Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials were contacted and that "an ICE agent will proceed with deportation efforts as a result of the felony investigation."
Charging documents also state, "He is not lawfully present within the United States. He has used different Social Security numbers and cards not belonging to him."Comment on this story
OnTrac released a prepared statement Monday saying that Cortes was "an independent contractor performing services for a motor carrier that contracts with OnTrac."
"Our OnTrac loss prevention team has been aware of the situation and began investigating this as soon as it was brought to our attention," according to the company. "Be assured that this kind of action will never be tolerated. We will continue to aggressively pursue investigations and prosecute to the fullest extent of the law."
The number of packages stolen was still being tabulated, according to OnTrac.