Postal workers caught: What's being done to prevent theft at you - KCTV5

Postal workers caught: What's being done to prevent theft at your post office

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A business owner took action when money sent to her in the mail mysteriously disappeared. (KCTV5) A business owner took action when money sent to her in the mail mysteriously disappeared. (KCTV5)
KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -

A business owner took action when money sent to her in the mail mysteriously disappeared.

And she wasn’t the only one getting ripped off. Her complaint sparked an investigation into one of many postal employees caught stealing the mail they are trusted to deliver.

Terry Williams is one of the most recent former postal employees who pleaded guilty to stealing greeting cards, gift cards and Netflix DVDs. Investigators say when they caught him, he had more than 330 greeting cards

KCTV5 News sent a Freedom of Information Act request and obtained statistics that show just how many metro postal workers are accused of committing similar crimes.

Every week, dart teams sent their score sheets and weekly dues to Cindy Larkins. Most teams sent her checks, but a few occasionally sent cash payments.

"That's my business. I have to have that money to keep my business running," Larkins said.

Suddenly, payments stopped showing up in her mailbox.

"I go, 'That's really weird. I haven't received it yet.' That started it," she said. "I never got it. It had about $170 cash in it".

Larkins reported the missing money and agreed to help USPS-OIG special agents investigate Shannon Hill.

"You just can't steal from people. I live on a very fixed income. Every little bit of money I make, I need," Larkins said.

Larkins says a USPS-OIG special agent? mailed her three envelopes with cash inside them to see if they would arrive and only two did.

"If I'm missing $500 to $600, how many other people that she delivered mail to are missing money?" Larkins said.

Larkins says special agents tucked a dye pack into an envelope to see if Hill would open it and then watched her walk into a gas station.

"She went straight to the bathroom, because she had blue stuff all over her, trying to wash it off. The (special agent) walked in right behind her," Larkins said.

Last year, 550 postal workers were convicted of stealing or destroying mail around the country. More than $340 million was recovered or paid back through fines and restitution.

In the metro in 2015, investigators opened 19 new mail theft cases. Nine people were convicted or had a pretrial diversion which is an alternative to prosecution.

Last year, investigators opened 21 new cases and had seven convictions or pretrial diversions. So far, in the first three months of this year, investigators opened 13 new cases and had six convictions or diversions.


Year

New Cases

Arrests

Indictments / Informations

Convictions / Pretrial Diversions

Administrative Actions

2014

16

8

7

6

9

2015

19

6

6

9

11

2016

21

9

11

7

20

2017

13

6

9

6

11
 


"It really upsets me that there are a few people that do things that are dishonest that make the Postal Service workers look bad. It really angers me," Larkins said.

Larkins was also upset with the punishment Hill received. She had to pay back $785 in restitution and received one year of probation for stealing from her postal routes in Raytown, Parkville and Kansas City.

"Shocked. That is absolutely insane. It went on for over a year ... that she had been stealing stuff and gets a slap on the wrist," Larkins said. "I don't think it is right. It is a federal offense to steal mail."

Larkins hopes others will report suspicious activity and don’t assume something was lost in the mail.

"I'm sorry, I don't think a lot of this stuff is lost in the mail. I think it is stolen by some of these postal workers ... the few bad apples," Larkins said.

A spokesperson for the United States Postal Service Office of Inspector General sent KCTV5 a written statement saying a "very small fraction" of postal employees are involved in stealing mail. Last year special agents arrested 455 postal employees and contractors. "Given the size of the workforce – more than 488,000 employees – the integrity of postal employees is remarkable. We are continuously striving to reduce thefts."


More information from the Office of Inspector General

How do special agents investigate mail theft allegations?

Information concerning postal crimes comes to us through various sources. Special agents receive complaints and tips from customers, postal employees and mailers, following up on any information received. They use special investigative techniques to identify criminal activities in the early stages by analyzing mail flow and comparing employee work schedules and access to the mail. Special agents also employ a variety of traditional investigative techniques as well as emerging technology and tools to determine where thefts are occurring in the mailstream. If employees are stealing mail or embezzling funds, we will find out. The OIG’s Mail Theft program is designed to detect and investigate theft, rifling, destruction, mistreatment, willful delay, or tampering of mail by Postal Service employees and employees contracted by the Postal Service. A primary goal of this program is to establish guidelines for agents to investigate and initiate administrative, criminal, or civil actions against violators.

What has the OIG been doing to stop this activity?

In addition to investigating these instances, seeking criminal prosecution and disciplinary action against offenders, the OIG provides information and training to newly hired employees concerning the consequences of throwing away mail. The deterrent effect of losing a postal career and possibly spending time in jail is a key component in our prevention efforts.

New training program for postal employees

Special agents regularly make presentations on postal crimes at new employee orientation sessions, explaining the serious responsibility they have in protecting postal funds, property, and the mail from theft or mistreatment. They also learn the consequences if they fail to carry out this responsibility. In FY 2010, we unveiled “Case Files of the OIG,” a new training program for postal employees. This online training module discusses the OIG’s mandate to fight internal crime and focuses on theft, fraud, integrity, and misconduct. The course also shows the negative impact these crimes have on postal employees, their families, and the Postal Service. This web-based course is now available in the Postal Service’s Learning Management System (LMS). DVDs have been supplied to field offices and audit directors for their use.

Can people trust their letter carrier?

Absolutely. The Postal Service has a long and proud tradition of protecting the “sanctity of the seal” of First-Class Mail. The overwhelming majority of postal employees perpetuate this tradition every day in their efforts to move the nation’s mail to its proper destination. Unfortunately, a few postal employees abuse the public trust placed in them. It is the job of OIG special agents to identify them and provide factual, objective reports to postal management to have violators removed from the Postal Service. In addition to losing their jobs, many are prosecuted in the criminal courts.

What are some of the things people should be doing to prevent mail theft?

  1. Never send cash or coins in the mail. Use checks or money orders.
  2. Safeguard financial information, especially your Social Security numbers, account numbers, and statements. Be careful when disposing of used credit card receipts and pre-approved credit card solicitations.
  3. Retrieve mail as soon as possible after delivery to the mail receptacle.
  4. If a mail receptacle has a locking device, make sure it works. Apartment boxes should be maintained by the property owner.
  5. If expecting a check or credit card or package but unable to be home when it is delivered, have a trusted friend get the mail.
  6. If you are going on vacation or plan to be away from home for a long period of time, have the Post Office hold the mail while you are gone.
  7. Report any suspicious activity in your neighborhood to local police or Postal Inspection Service. Suspicious activity may be someone following the letter carrier, attempting to break into a postal vehicle or tampering with mail.
  8. Report nonreceipt of valuable mail as soon as possible by calling banks, credit card issuers, and the OIG Hotline at 1-888-USPS-OIG (1-888-877-7644). You can also visit the OIG website at www.uspsoig.gov and fill out a Hotline complaint form www.uspsoig.gov/form/file-online-complaint
  9. Use letter slots at the Post Office to mail letters or give them to your letter carrier.
  10. Report mail theft by completing a mail theft form at www.usps.com or by calling 1-800-ASK-USPS (1-800-275-8777). You can also visit the OIG website at www.uspsoig.gov and fill out a Hotline complaint form www.uspsoig.gov/form/file-online-complaint
  11. Keep your mailbox in good repair and make sure it is properly installed. This may help prevent theft of the mailbox itself.

What should people do if they believe their mail is not being delivered?

Business mailers and other postal customers who think their mail is not being delivered should call their local postmaster and report their suspicions. Any postal customer who finds quantities of mail dumped before delivery should call the OIG Hotline at 1-888-USPS-OIG (1-888-877-7644).

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