Petersburg Post Office, Feb. 26, 2020. (Photo by Angela Denning/KFSK)

Several Petersburg residents have reported missing mail this week. And now authorities say they know why. A local man faces federal charges after allegedly breaking into the local post office. Angela Denning reports:

A Petersburg man was charged Tuesday with felony mail theft after he allegedly broke into his local post office. Authorities say 38-year-old Christopher Scott Manske broke into the post office early Monday morning.

“At this point our main suspect is the one that’s been arrested,” said John Wiegand, a Postal Inspector familiar with the case. “But we are looking to determine if there were any other co-conspirators and exactly who they were and how they may have assisted if they were involved.”

Petersburg police say they witnessed the crime. Officers say they saw Manske sitting in his vehicle at about 12:20 a.m. in the post office parking lot. They asked Manske what he was doing and he said he was on his phone so they left but observed him from a distance. About five minutes later officers say he entered the post office. Then about a half hour later he came out, rushed to his car, and threw something in it.

Officers detained Manske at the scene and later took him to Petersburg Medical Center for a mental health evaluation. 

Inside the post office, police say they found open parcel lockers and a bolt on the floor. Officers got a search warrant for Manske’s vehicle and his boat. In his car, they found postal locker keys and a large bag containing mail for other people including six bottles of prescription drugs, a $100 check among other things. In his boat, they found more mail and pills addressed to other people.

Manske faces federal charges for allegedly burglarizing a post office and mail theft.

At the time of Manske’s arrest, postal inspectors with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service were already in Petersburg investigating a recent break in. Someone triggered an alarm at the post office on Saturday. Two postal inspectors flew into town the next day to investigate. They found that someone had broken a steel bar barrier to go through a parcel locker. The alarm was activated when the burglar left through a bulk mail room door. At that time, inspectors found 16 missing parcels and empty lockers that were left open.

Wiegand says the Postal Inspection Service takes crimes against the postal service seriously.

“The second this burglary was discovered we had inspectors immediately begin a response to the area,” he said, “and they’ve been on the ground since then and they’ll be out there until we’re done working this as well as transporting the suspect into the federal court system.”

Postal inspectors say Manske admitted he took packages and said he planned on selling the stolen goods. He’s suspected to be involved with both break ins. But so far he’s only been charged with the second incident — when he was allegedly caught in the act.

Manske has had a few other run-ins with the law in the last few years including violating a domestic restraining order in 2018. He was also fined for littering in 2019.

Wiegand says anybody with missing parcels at the post office should call the postal service’s 24-hour hotline at 877-876-2455. An inspector will be following up on these calls.