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USPS Office of Investigations | Case Highlights

May 8, 2024

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In a February edition of Investigative Case Highlights, we mentioned how criminals use their access to facilitate their greed. It seems the greater the access to resources, the greater the temptation to compromise them.

Some positions within the U.S. Postal Service provide employees more access than others. And it takes one person, one single point of compromise to criminally disrupt the system. Our Office of Investigations recently closed two separate cases where postal employees abused their positions of trust to do just that.

The first takes us to the greater Boston, MA, area, where our special agents were alerted to the loss of over $5,000 in stamps at a local post office. Following several leads, they soon narrowed in on a sales associate as a possible suspect. The evidence collected against him was incriminating, so it was time to get the story straight from the source.

By the time our special agents sat down for an interview, the employee knew the gig was up. They asked about the $5,000 in stamps, to which he admitted stealing about $800 worth. They also asked about missing postal money order funds, to which he said he’d pocketed $850 two weeks earlier. But the evidence told a different story: he hadn’t just stolen $800 worth of stamps — it was well over $7,000 in a little over a year period. He also stole over $11,000 in money orders during the same time.

The employee resigned from the Postal Service during the investigation and was later indicted on theft of government funds and arrested. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to time served and two years’ supervised release. He was also ordered to pay over $18,000 in restitution to USPS.

The second case began when our special agents identified a suspicious pattern of missing items and funds at three Pennsylvania post offices — these included stamps, registered mail, and hundreds of money orders that were cashed but never reported as sold. Soon a prime suspect emerged: a window clerk who subbed for clerks at two other post offices. Wherever she went, a trail of missing items followed.

As our agents pursued that lead, a separate joint investigation in the area had caught two men stealing mail from a USPS blue collection box. The deed was done in a matter of seconds. The men fled on foot and hid inside a garbage dumpster, but they didn’t outrun the police.

With the thieves apprehended, our special agents turned their attention to who was cashing the stolen checks. And when they examined the collection box more closely, it was clear the men hadn’t broken in — they had simply opened it. Only the Postal Service’s proprietary arrow keys open those boxes, so who was giving them access?

In a further twist, local police in Pennsylvania arrested another man in the area while investigating multiple complaints of stolen checks and other financial instruments. The man had a reputation of traveling around the state and into Maryland to negotiate altered checks and, as you might have guessed, he was caught trying to negotiate a stolen and adulterated check at a local bank.

Our special agents along with postal inspectors executed a search warrant on his home and found the motherload: about 250 pieces of stolen mail addressed to the local township authority, checks residents had issued the township, credit cards, financial institution transaction receipts, numerous electronic devices, and a robust supply of check washing instruments.

The man confessed he had gotten the mail from a nearby post office — it just so happened to be the same one to which the mail clerk was assigned. Remember the two other guys who were caught red-handed? It turns out one of them had been communicating with the mail clerk to get pointers on how to open collection boxes with arrow keys.

The three men and another individual were arrested and pleaded guilty. The mail clerk was also arrested and later confessed to being the point of compromise within USPS, providing the external suspects with stolen mail and arrow keys. In all, this investigation led to the recovery of more than $98,000 in restitution and over seven years of defendant jail time.

We all play a part in protecting America’s trust in the Postal Service. If you suspect or know of bank, check, or other financial fraud involving USPS employees or contractors, please report it to our Hotline.

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