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Office of Investigations | Case Highlights

The Fugitive’s Trail

Date: 09/13/23 | Category: Internal Mail Theft

­He was on the run from the U.S. Marshals Fugitive Taskforce, suspected of murder. Newark Police closed in and arrested him that day. With him was a New Jersey USPS city carrier. Was she simply in the wrong place at the wrong time?

Not based on what police found during the arrest: a trove of stolen mail, fake IDs, and a Glock 43 with a 60-round extended magazine. That’s when our special agents received the call to investigate.

The man, a felon, had lured the city carrier and another woman who also worked in New Jersey as a mail processing clerk into a mail theft ring. The city carrier was never charged with mail theft, but a third USPS employee who worked at a New York post office was also roped in. The women knew what to look for during their shifts — credit cards, checks, U.S. Treasury checks, stimulus checks, and other mail items that could be used for profit.

The clerk’s boyfriend introduced her to the felon, who paid her $150 per stolen credit card. It didn’t help she had a severe opioid addiction, which she fed with the ill-gotten goods. She also used some of the stolen credit cards for personal use. Even her BMW sedan was purchased with a stolen credit card and fake identification. That’s what led agents on to the chase, and the electronic trail was far from over.

The felon and the clerk’s boyfriend had been running the operation with three other men, two of them brothers, using the stolen cards for hundreds of thousands of dollars of retail and online purchases. They also posed as the account holders when calling the card-issuing banks and used personal identifying information belonging to the real account holders to change or gain information about the stolen cards. Time and time again, the group managed to defraud the U.S. government and a number of financial institutions.

The USPS OIG and Postal Inspection Service submitted over 100 subpoenas to various companies, businesses, and cell phone providers, which provided evidence of the group’s criminal activities. Then came the string of arrests: from July to November 2021, each ring member fell — starting with the mail processing clerk, who was arrested by agents from our OIG, the Inspection Service, and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. After executing a search warrant that uncovered more evidence and led to the seizure of her BMW, the clerk admitted to her involvement in the theft of U.S. Mail. This July, she was sentenced to 18 months in prison and 36 months’ probation. She was also ordered to pay restitution of more than $260,000 and to forfeit $20,000 plus the seized BMW.

Thanks to our special agents’ investigative work and collaboration with other law enforcement agencies, the group of seven was brought to justice. Collectively, they incurred approximately $450,000 in losses, including $382,000 in Treasury checks and $22,000 in CARES Act checks. The charges against them included conspiracy to steal mail and possess stolen mail, theft of government property, aggravated identity theft, and conspiracy to commit bank fraud.

The men were sentenced to a combined 216 months of incarceration, 72 months of probation or supervised release, and were ordered to pay more than $814,000 in restitution. And the New York postal worker pled guilty and was sentenced to time served, three years’ supervised release, and was also ordered to pay restitution.

Our agency continues to work closely with the Postal Service to educate postal employees about the risk of falling prey to criminal organizations. Help protect our nation’s postal workers: if you suspect or know of mail theft involving Postal Service employees or contractors, please report it to our Hotline.

For further reading:

Department of Justice (via uspsoig.gov), Essex County Man Admits Using Credit Cards and Checks Stolen from U.S. Mail to Attempt to Defraud Banks of Over $250,000