‘Documents everywhere’: Accused mail thieves arrested as federal investigators find bags of stolen mail in motel room

23-year-old Cody Polanco and 33-year-old Tarah Hill are in the Harris County Jail

A pair of prolific accused mail thieves have been arrested and police tell KPRC 2 they may be connected to hundreds of mail theft victims all across the Houston metro area, from Sugar Land, to Memorial Villages, and possibly even Conroe.

23-year-old Cody Polanco and 33-year-old Tarah Hill are both in the Harris County Jail. Polanco is charged with evading arrest while Hill is charged with possession of a controlled substance and mail theft, though both have been arrested before for similar offenses.

How investigators tracked them down

According to a search warrant obtained by KPRC 2, Polanco and Hill, who hadn’t been identified at the time, were caught on surveillance cameras at the Telfair Lofts apartments in Sugar Land on Dec. 31.

Using what appeared to be a United States Postal Service master key, they accessed a bank of an estimated 140 mailboxes at the apartments on Branford Place.

Sugar Land Police eventually asked for help identifying them on Facebook, but wouldn’t comment for this story.

Six days later and 20 miles away, on Jan. 5, the pair allegedly hit another mailbox on Carolane Trail in the Memorial Villages area.

In that case, the victim didn’t want to go on camera, but told KPRC 2 they got a $2,300 check. He reported it to Memorial Villages Police.

Using license plate readers and surveillance cameras, investigators zeroed in on a white SUV the suspects were driving.

“The vehicle had been pretty much all over Houston, all hours of the night,” Det. Christopher Rodriguez said.

“Stealing mail?” KPRC 2′s Bryce Newberry asked.

“I don’t know what they were doing, but you know, 2, 3, 4:00 in the morning, either you’re working late or you’re up to no good,” Rodriguez said.

After getting a license plate from the white SUV, investigators learned it had been rented using a woman’s identity, but she wasn’t the driver, according to the search warrant.

“Her driver’s license had been lost or stolen,” Rodriguez said.

Disturbance call leads to arrest

On Jan. 23, the Harris County Precinct 4 Constable’s Office got called to a Walmart parking lot off the Northwest Freeway.

A caller reported a “white male was hitting a white female in a white SUV,” according to dispatch audio courtesy of Broadcastify.

When constable deputies responded, Constable Mark Herman told KPRC 2 Polanco briefly ran before being caught. They found Hill in possession of drugs and stolen mail.

He was arrested for evading arrest and she was charged with drug possession and mail theft.

Search warrant executed at motel

Ironically, at the same time they were involved in a disturbance in the Walmart parking lot on Jan. 23, Det. Rodriguez and investigators from the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) were about to serve a search warrant at a motel on FM 529 where they learned they had been staying.

Investigators searched the Econo Lodge room where they found three bags of unopened mail, bulk counterfeit arrow keys - which are universally used to open mailboxes, checks, debit and credit cards, driver’s licenses, passports, and more, according to the search warrant return.

“If you can just imagine just scattered documents everywhere,” Rodriguez said.

The motel manager told KPRC 2 off camera they had been staying there a couple weeks.

A spokesperson for the USPIS told KPRC 2 inspectors are still going through all the evidence recovered from the motel room, but they plan to present the case to the U.S. Attorney’s Office and seek federal charges.

Suspects’ criminal history

Records show Polanco had been arrested at least twice before, accused of similar crimes in Harris County.

After being arrested in Nov. 2022 with a key designed for mailbox theft, mail, credit cards, and driver’s licenses of 55 other people, according to court records, Polanco got released on community supervision, records show.

Hill was arrested last year with more than 10 grams of methamphetamine, according to court records, and a suitcase of multiple suspected stolen identity items, like birthdates and social security numbers. She had been released on bond.

Both are now listed in the Harris County Jail.

About the Author

Bryce Newberry joined KPRC 2 in July 2022. He loves the thrill of breaking news and digging deep on a story that gets people talking.

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