Rags to Riches at the Post Office? It Could Be Fraud...
Date: 08/09/23 | Category: Financial Fraud
She used to be very vocal about tight finances and the hardships it brought. What’s not to understand? But, little by little, her coworkers at the Bellflower, CA, Post Office began noticing changes in her behavior: First, frequent salon visits for hair and nails. Then came new, sometimes expensive clothes. Soon, extravagant deliveries arrived at her P.O. Box, which she hardly minded flaunting. And last, the new car. Was the Postal Service window clerk hiding a booming side gig? Did she suddenly come into some money or was there something amiss?
Her supervisor, the lead clerk, kept an ear to the ground and took special care when going over her paperwork. Noticing an anomaly, the lead clerk confronted her about it, but she dodged the questions. Soon after, the window clerk went missing in action. But the investigation into her had already begun.
The Postal Service’s Pacific Area Finance Department had flagged money order transaction issues whose roads led to the Bellflower Post Office and, more specifically, to this window clerk. After referring the matter to the USPS OIG, our special agents began investigating what turned out to be a sophisticated embezzlement scheme: between March 2016 and March 2017, the employee had processed 138 fraudulent money order transactions, directly pocketing more than $111,000 from the Postal Service.
When special agents interviewed the employee, she denied all accusations, but the evidence against her told a different story: her name was on the fraudulent money orders, she had written variations of family members’ names and addresses on the refund documentation, and a lengthy paper trail of USPS documents outlined her schemes. Agents developed evidence of her processing money orders with no customers in sight and OIG investigators found $69,000 in cash deposits to her bank account stemming from the money orders. The window clerk resigned while under investigation in December 2018.
In January 2022, the now-former employee was indicted, arrested, and charged with wire fraud and theft, including criminal forfeiture. Four months later, she was convicted and found guilty of all charges. This January, she was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment, followed by six months of home confinement and 24 months’ probation. The court also ordered her to pay more than $111,000 in restitution to the Postal Service.
Those who stand to gain by defrauding the Postal Service will be caught. Sudden changes in behavior that unexplainably tell a rags-to-riches story may point to something being amiss. If you suspect a postal employee or contractor of misconduct, please report it to our Hotline.