(EDITOR’S NOTE: This article has been corrected to include the correct post office allegedly burglarized by the three suspects. The break ins occurred at the Tomé, Bosque and Veguita post offices.)

The attempted theft of a generator late last month led local law enforcement officers to items taken during break-ins at three Valencia County post offices and numerous stolen items linked to two recent commercial burglaries.

Three men have been arrested and face charges in connection to the crimes — Orlando Nunez, 30, of Belen; Andrew Atkinson, 33, and Kobee Orgass, 21, both of Los Lunas.

Valencia County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Lt. Joseph Rowland said the three men are suspected of breaking in to the Tomé, Bosque and Veguita post offices, stealing mail and equipment.

“In all three cases, the power to the buildings was cut during the break ins,” Rowland said. “But there is video from inside showing the activities.”

The lieutenant said the department is working with the U.S. Postal Inspectors Office to determine what type of charges will be brought against the three men — state, federal or both.

“It is shocking how such a small group of individuals can create so much damage and disruption in our community,” said Valencia County Sheriff Denise Vigil. “I am proud of the men and women of the Valencia County Sheriff’s Office who have dedicated so much time and effort into this investigation.

“The deputies have been deliberate, relentless and methodical in the search for those responsible of these crimes. I am also thankful for the U.S. Postal Inspectors Office for their support.”

Valencia County sheriff’s deputies were dispatched to a property at the corner of N. Rio del Oro Loop and Bonita Vista Boulevard for a burglary in progress at about 3 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 27. When VCSO deputy Edgar Erives arrived, he saw a white Chevrolet pick-up truck leave the property, heading east on N. Rio Del Oro Loop.

A witness at the location told the deputy she recorded Nunez trying to steal a trailer with a generator attached to it. He couldn’t get the trailer hooked up to the truck he was driving, which was later determined to be stolen, and drove away.

By following tire tracks left in the dirt, the deputy found the truck and Nunez on Emilia Lane, where the suspect was allegedly trying to remove TLC Plumbing decals from the vehicle. Nunez was arrested and is charged with receiving or transferring stolen motor vehicles and tampering with evidence. The trailer and generator were returned to Wagner Equipment Company.

Nunez was booked into the Valencia County Detention Center and released on his own recognizance by Los Lunas Magistrate Miles Tafoya on Tuesday, Jan. 3. The judge ordered Nunez to report to pretrial services.

According to a recent press release from the Valencia County Sheriff’s Office, during the investigation of Nunez’s activities, Atkinson and Orgass were identified as additional suspects in the commercial burglaries and post office break-ins.

About 10 p.m. on the day Nunez was arrested — Dec. 27 — Atkinson and Orgass were found at a home in the 4300 block of N.M. 314 in Los Chavez. As deputies surrounded the home and initiated call outs to the people in the home, they learned Atkinson was possibly armed at that time and had multiple violent felony warrants for his arrest.

The north and south bound lanes of N.M. 314 were closed to traffic and a search warrant was obtained from a district court judge, allowing officers to enter the home. By 1 a.m., Wednesday, Dec. 28, the occupants hadn’t voluntarily exited the home, so the Valencia Regional SWAT Team was called to the scene.

Shortly after the team arrived at about 2 a.m., Orgass and a woman who lived at the home came out. She is not facing charges.

Five hours later, SWAT members entered the home and found Atkinson in a bedroom closet. He was booked into VCDC on the outstanding warrants and bonded out on Jan. 4. Orgass was released by the sheriff’s office, Rowland said.

The property recovered during the investigation is valued at more than $25,000, according to the press release from VCSO. In addition, U.S. Post Office equipment described as “critical” and mail was recovered. The mail has been turned over to postal inspectors, the lieutenant said.

Charges are still pending regarding the burglaries at the post offices.

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Julia M. Dendinger began working at the VCNB in 2006. She covers Valencia County government, Belen Consolidated Schools and the village of Bosque Farms. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists Rio Grande chapter’s board of directors.