Ventura County – The sprawling suburbs of Simi Valley, nestled in the foothills between Camarillo and Thousand Oaks—and home to a substantial population of law enforcement and fire department families—is probably not the best place to be committing crimes against either people or property. But that memo may have been overlooked by four individuals perpetrating a series of thefts from residential mail boxes over recent months.
Those thefts did not go unnoticed by area residents, which led to the identification of a vehicle suspected to have been used by the thieves. According to Ventura County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Sgt. John Wright, that vehicle was seen by a Sheriff’s deputy at approximately 3:00 a.m. on October 20th cruising through a Santa Susana Park neighborhood. Suspicions aroused, the deputy “stopped the vehicle and saw mail strewn throughout the interior of the car,” Wright reported.
The four occupants of the car—Petros Melkonyan, 26 of Tarzana, Derek Mitsuo Sakata, 25 of Winnetka, Alexsis Hodgrafer, 21 of Modesto, and an unidentified 17-year-old female—were detained while the deputy conducted a more thorough investigation into the contents of the vehicle. That search revealed more than a hundred pieces of mail suspected to have been stolen, along with “credit cards, checks, and other personal information not belonging to any of the suspects,” all of it tied to addresses in Simi Valley and to residences located in Los Angeles County.
Based upon the evidence found at the scene, the four suspects were all arrested and transported to Ventura County Jail, where Melkonyan was charged with conspiracy to commit a crime, forgery, possession of stolen property, and being under the influence of a controlled substance. According to Wright, Melkonyan also faces Federal charges pertaining to mail theft. For his part, Sakata was booked on charges of conspiracy, possession of stolen property, being under the influence of a controlled substance, and providing false information to a peace officer. Hodgrafer was booked on a charge of being under the influence of a controlled substance, while the female juvenile was transported to Ventura County Juvenile Hall and charged with conspiracy, mail theft, possession of stolen property, and being under the influence of a controlled substance.