Woman held without bail in mailbox thefts in Shadyside, South Side

Brian Bowling

Friday, Dec. 13, 2013, 2:30 p.m.

A North Braddock woman used a screwdriver and possibly a crowbar to break into at least 29 neighborhood mailbox centers in Shadyside and the South Side in November and December, federal prosecutors say.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Catherine Eddy on Friday ordered Carolyne Korotko, 40, held without bail in Allegheny County Jail until her preliminary hearing, scheduled for Monday.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Greg Melucci asked that Korotko be held without bail because of the seriousness of her offenses.

He argued that Korotko was likely to commit more crimes if released because she has an extensive criminal background of forgery and fraud and was on probation from a state fraud conviction when she allegedly committed the thefts.

In the state case, Korotko pleaded guilty in September and was sentenced to two years of probation for stealing another person's credit card from the mail and using it to make several purchases.

Assistant Federal Public Defender Akin Adepoju asked the judge to release Korotko on bail because she's never failed to show up for court and has a home and three children.

Prosecutors charged Korotko with destruction of mailboxes, mail theft, identity theft, aggravated identity theft and access device fraud. She could be sentenced to a mandatory minimum sentence of two years on the aggravated identity theft charge and maximum sentences ranging from three to 10 years on the other charges.

The Postal Inspection Service used video surveillance and eyewitnesses to identify Korotko as the suspect in the string of burglaries, according to the arrest affidavit filed by Brian Plants, a postal inspector.

She targeted the centralized “cluster” boxes that have separate compartments for each resident's mail and larger compartments to hold parcels.

Investigators identified Korotko because she used someone's credit card to buy a prepaid Visa card at a Wal-Mart and then used the Visa card to pay a phone bill, the affidavit says.

Brian Bowling is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at bbowling@tribweb.com.

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