NORTHVILLE TOWNSHIP, Mich. – Authorities are crediting the use of license plate readers in assisting in the arrest of a man who reportedly was stealing mail while delivering for Amazon.
Armed robberies in Taylor
According to authorities, a United States Postal Service letter carrier was robbed at gunpoint Sept. 25 while delivering mail at the Courtyards Apartment Complex in Taylor. Police said it was the same location where a mail carrier was robbed of an Arrow Key on Sept. 1.
An Arrow Key is used to unlock collection boxes, apartment mailbox panels, cluster box units and more.
Police said the mail carrier was approached by two men, one with a handgun and the other with a Draco-styled firearm, who took her Arrow Key and fled in a black pickup westbound on Spring Village Boulevard.
A surveillance camera at the apartment complex helped police identify the vehicle as a black 2024 Ram with a towing hitch without a connector, black wheels with black rims, black tinted windows, a sliding read window, no cover, a hood scoop and running boards that come out when doors open.
Court documents said police in Taylor used Flock license plate readers to search for a black Ram pickup in the area within two hours of the robbery. The system reportedly found a vehicle matching the suspect vehicle about a mile north of the robbery roughly 45 minutes before it occurred. Police said it had all the distinctive characteristics of the vehicle from the robbery.
The truck had an Ohio license plate, which police found was registered to Avis Car Rental and was rented days prior by Michael Lamar Smith-Ellis. Through the rental information, police were able to find an address and a phone number that were both linked to Smith-Ellis.
The next day, authorities went to the address linked to Smith-Ellis, where they found the truck in the driveway.
Police said they were contacted by someone who had seen a reward poster related to the robbery and claimed to have knowledge of the incident. The informant reportedly said a crew of two or three people were robbing mailboxes at night with the Arrow Key that had been stolen Sept. 1. That key was either lost or thrown away, which led to the Sept. 25 robbery.
The source said Smith-Ellis was not involved in the Sept. 1 robbery but had been using the Arrow Key while working as an Amazon delivery driver, where they would steal from the mailboxes while delivering packages. The source reportedly had been at the address linked to Smith-Ellis and had seen piles of mail and goods that were purchased with stolen credit cards and checks.
Armed robbery in Northville Township
Roughly a month after the Sept. 24 robbery, another mail carrier was robbed at gunpoint in Northville Township. The victim told police that two men, dressed in black and with their faces covered, approached her and demanded her Arrow Key in broad daylight.
The two reportedly fled with her Arrow Key in a gray Hyundai, which was spotted by police in Livonia about 10 minutes later. A traffic stop was conducted on I-96 and police detained the two occupants, identified as Smith-Ellis and Terrance Tucker. Police said they could see a handgun and a Draco-style gun, black face coverings and black clothing in plain view through the windows of the vehicle.
The Hyundai had a Kansas license plate that was registered to Avis Car Rental and was reportedly rented to Smith-Ellis a week prior.
After getting a search warrant, police reportedly found one black Glock handgun, one Arsenal Model SEM 7K 7.62mm (which matched the Draco-styled gun), two sets of gloves, two black jackets, two black balaclava masks, two black sweatpants, a USPS Arrow Key, several credit cards in the names of other people and unopened mail addressed to other people.
Smith-Ellis, a 30-year-old from Detroit, and Tucker, a 32-year-old from Inkster, were turned over to the United States Postal and arraigned on charges of conspiracy, robbery or theft of mail, money or property of the U.S., aggravated assault of a federal employee, use of a firearm during and relation to a crime of violence and key or locks stolen or reproduced.
All charges are federal felony charges.