MANATEE -- Within days of one another, two Manatee County post offices were the targets of mail box fires.
The latest incident occurred at around 4:10 p.m. on New Year’s Eve at a postal drop box in the 4400 block of Pro Am Drive.
An unknown person caused damage to the box itself and destroyed most of the mail inside it, according to a media release.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation.
“The Postal Inspectors will be handling the investigation,” said Sgt. Brett Getman of the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office. “They will be handing out letters to residents in Peridia to explain what happened.”
The first postal-related fire occurred Dec. 29 when a witness saw Rafiaele Mazzucco, 51, light a piece of paper and toss it into a mail slot inside the post office at 115 75th St. W.
The witness alerted postal employees, who extinguished the fire before it damaged any mail or the building, according to the sheriff’s office.
When deputies caught up with Mazzucco, he told investigators that he was “mad at someone. The post office opened my mail and I was upset,” according to his arrest report, after he was read his rights.
He went on to say, “It wasn’t on fire when I put it in the mail slot, where’s the crime?” according to the sheriff’s report.
A search later revealed a small gold Zippo lighter, a bottle of lighter fluid and a small pipe containing white residue, the report said.
Mazzucco is in Manatee County jail on a $50,870 bond and has been charged with arson, possession of drug paraphernalia and resisting arrest without violence.
According to the United States House of Representatives Office of the Law Revision Counsel website, anyone who unlawfully destroys any letter, postal card, package, bag, or mail which was intended to be conveyed by mail, or carried or delivered by any carrier or other employee of the Postal Service, shall be fined or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.
No one from the Postal Service could be reached over the holiday weekend to comment on either incident.
Paradise Afshar, Herald reporter, can be contacted at 748-0411, ext. 7024.