A San Francisco resident charged with mail theft last week allegedly began receiving his neighbor’s mail after filling out a change-of-address-form in her name.
Olaf Strohmaier, a former middle-school teacher, and his co-defendant, Nancy Au, face three misdemeanor counts of fraud and two of mail theft for allegedly trying to divert mail away from Ann Ngo and her ex-husband, Tony Singh.
Ngo’s mail started disappearing in November, according to court papers. William Zemblidge, an inspector with the U.S. Postal Service, reported in an affidavit that Ngo realized something was amiss when she received a card confirming the change of address order. She was living across the street from the home she previously rented from Strohmaier.
Zemblidge refused to comment on the case but wrote in his affidavit that Ngo had missed the delivery of mail, including mortgage and bank statements and an automobile registration sticker.
Strohmaier had been Ngo’s landlord, and the two had a decent relationship until Stohmaier began making romantic overtures toward Ngo in the spring of 2005, according to her lawyer, Joseph Bravo.
When Ngo rebuffed Strohmaier’s advances, Bravo said, Strohmaier tried to evict her in July, saying she hadn’t been paying the correct rent. Ngo moved out in fall 2005, Bravo said, but Strohmaier pursued a lawsuit against her for rent he claimed she owed him. Bravo said he and Ngo are considering options for a countersuit.
In order to compile evidence against Strohmaier, Zemblidge reported in the affidavit that he sent a letter to Ngo containing a $20 Target gift card intentionally mislabeled to read $120. Strohmaier allegedly tried to use the card at the Daly City Target store, paying with his credit card when the amount of the gift card came up short.
According to the affidavit, Strohmaier allegedly had Au fill out a total of three change-of address-forms for Ngo and Singh. Strohmaier and Au’s relationship, however, is unclear.
"These charges are without merit, and we’re looking forward to my client’s exoneration when the matter goes to trial," said Au's lawyer, David Harrison. Strohmaier’s defense lawyer did not return multiple telephone messages. His civil lawyer declined to comment.
Postal Inspector Jeff Fitch, a spokesman for the service, said Ngo "did exactly the right thing" by reporting the faulty change of address order. "The minute you receive a card notifying of a change of address and you haven’t filed one, immediately call postal inspectors. Also, contact the local police department," he said.
The postal service began sending confirmation cards to both addresses on a change of address form several years ago, Fitch said. Last year, it began requiring a credit-card payment of $1 for online changes of address in order to verify information against the card number.