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A Lone Criminal Act Carries Serious Consequences

May 23, 2024
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In the small world of mail theft involving postal employees, joint criminal operations typically see the longest and harshest sentences. However, a recent case our special agents cracked broke the mold for a one-person job.

In September 2022, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service provided a lead to our Office of Investigations about suspected check thefts at a post office in Arkansas. The case had started in June after a USPS arrow key that opened the blue collection boxes in front of the post office was reported missing. Soon after, residents along different delivery routes complained to local law enforcement about undelivered mail and stolen checks.

Our special agents worked quickly to identify a suspect, finding evidence of hundreds of checks that were stolen, altered, and cashed. They took less than a month to narrow in on a city carrier who was assigned to the delivery routes in question.

During an interview, our special agents presented the woman with incontrovertible evidence that implicated her. What was it? A cornucopia of ill-gotten fruits found during a search warrant on her personal property: almost 120 pieces of stolen tampered mail with some containing business checks, personal checks, and U.S. Treasury checks.

The employee admitted to stealing about 420 checks from the mailstream during a seven-month period, assuring them she had done it alone. She also admitted to selling the financial instruments to outside parties who would then wash and cash them for generally higher amounts than intended. She did, however, claim to not know about the missing arrow key or how it went missing.

Two days after that interview, the employee resigned from her position with USPS. Because of the investigation, she was arrested, charged, and prosecuted by an Arkansas prosecutor’s office. The mail theft scheme particularly hurt small businesses in a small town, and it became the first of its kind to be prosecuted in the state.

In December 2022, the prosecutor’s office issued a criminal information that included a whopping 165 counts of theft of property and financial identity fraud. And a year after the case was referred to the OIG, the woman pleaded guilty to 17 counts of the indictment and was sentenced to 20 years in prison followed by 10 years’ probation. She was also ordered to pay more than $58,000 in restitution to several financial institutions.

Postal employees are entrusted to protect the sanctity of the U.S. Mail. Breaking that trust carries serious consequences. If you suspect or know of mail theft involving Postal Service employees or contractors, please report it to our Hotline.

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