Fort Worth man, 18, pleads guilty to stealing USPS master key from letter carrier

An 18-year-old Fort Worth man pleaded guilty to stealing a U.S. Postal Service “arrow key” from a letter carrier, federal prosecutors said.

Willis Bender was charged in October 2023 and pleaded guilty Wednesday to receipt or concealment of stolen property to the United States, according to a news release from Leigha Simonton, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas.

Bender admitted he received and concealed a stolen “arrow key” — a master key used by the USPS to collect mail deposited in collection boxes, according to plea papers.

The key was stolen from a letter carrier in Everman on Sept. 20, according to the release. The carrier reported that she was robbed at gunpoint by a Black man who demanded she hand over the mailbox key, the release says.

In interviews with authorities, Bender gave several accounts of his role in the robbery. He first told authorities he knew nothing about the incident and then said that a man showed up at his front door, threatened his family, and forced Bender to accompany him in the robbery, according to the release.

In a second interview, Bender told authorities a man threatened him with a gun and forced him to sit in the back seat of his car during the robbery, the release states.

In another interview, Bender said a man committed the robbery while he and another suspect waited outside the vehicle. In a final interview, Bender stated that when police arrived to the scene, he looked outside and saw the stolen key sitting outside his car door, according to the release. Not wanting to get in trouble for the robbery, he told authorities that he took the key and hid it behind an air duct in his bedroom along with his gun.

Bender faces up to 10 years in prison.

The U.S. Postal Inspection Service conducted the investigation with assistance from Everman police.