Two men are facing a long list of felony charges related to identity theft and other crimes after an investigation that began with an apartment fire on Ashby Avenue in South Berkeley in late July.

Travis Erwin. Credit: BPD

Authorities say the men, at the time of their arrest last week, were found with more than 1,700 pieces of personal information that did not belong to them, including mail, checks and ID cards, as well as several universal “arrow keys,” which are used to unlock mailboxes.

The men — Travis Erwin, 31, of Berkeley and Richard Mohrbacher, 38, of Union City — also had a handgun and ammunition, and more than 14 grams of methamphetamine, when they were arrested, BPD said Monday in response to a Berkeleyside inquiry.

The investigation began after a late-night apartment fire in the 1500 block of Ashby Avenue on July 31.

After BFD put out the fire, authorities said, firefighters noticed several pieces of mail and personal identification in the unit that did not belong to the apartment’s residents. They alerted police.

According to BPD, the apartment’s residents had left just before the fire was discovered.

The identity theft investigation began after a fire in the 1500 block of Ashby Avenue in late July. Credit: Citizen reporter
Richard Mohrbacher. Credit: BPD

After securing a search warrant, BPD said, police found “several hundred pieces of mail, personal ID, blank/altered checks, as well as several types of narcotics, firearms and ammunition” in the apartment.

As their investigation continued, BPD said, police identified Erwin as a suspect in the case.

Days later, on Aug. 2, police were called to a residential complex in downtown Berkeley to investigate a spate of package and mail thefts. When officers reviewed security footage, BPD said, they recognized Erwin.

Investigators kept working the case and, on Thursday, they found Erwin along with Mohrbacher in an Oakland hotel. Authorities arrested the men at 12:50 p.m.

On Friday, the Alameda County district attorney’s office charged Erwin and Mohrbacher with possession of a firearm by a felon, possession of ammunition by a prohibited person and possession of the fraudulent information of more than 10 victims, among other crimes, according to court records online.

Erwin also was charged with burglary and special allegations that he had committed new crimes while out on bail for a different criminal case.

Both men entered not-guilty pleas Monday, according to court records.

Erwin is being held on $295,000 bail and Mohrbacher on $100,000 bail.

They are scheduled for a pretrial hearing Sept. 6.

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Emilie Raguso (former senior editor, news) joined Berkeleyside in 2012 and covered politics, public safety and development until her departure in 2022. In 2017, Emilie was named Journalist...