This past July, a U.S. Postal Service letter carrier in Miami was robbed at gunpoint for her master keys. In a suburb of Dayton, Ohio, three blue postal drop boxes were broken into and emptied and a mail carrier had keys stolen in May. Over a dozen mail carriers in Chevy Chase, Maryland have been robbed of mail and keys this year. Postal inspectors across the country are seeing a rash of mail theft, including mail stolen out of residential boxes, key theft and theft from blue drop boxes.
What is the purpose behind the thefts?
For the most part, the thieves seem to be after written checks. Residents in the Maryland area commented that checks they have put into the blue drop boxes have been stolen. The thieves will try to change the amount and pass off the check. Or often they will open accounts in similar sounding names to deposit the stolen checks. Some residents are trying to recoup thousands of dollars. They can and often also target personal information used for identity theft like credit card applications, bank statements and benefits information.
What kinds of charges could the perpetrators face?
There are numerous different violations of the United States Code involving the theft of mail. Generally, stealing from or tampering with the U.S. mail can be prosecuted as a federal felony that carries serious penalties. If caught, the perpetrators of these crimes could face up to five years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines. Stealing the mail master keys can carry a prison term of 10 years and damaging a mailbox can carry up to three years. However, these cases often involve much more significant charges.
Note that mail theft is a different, and often lesser, crime than mail fraud. Mail fraud consists of using the U.S. mail to further a criminal act. If someone steals a check from the mail, alters the check, then mails it to another location in an attempt to cash it, that could be considered mail fraud, or bank fraud and result in charges carrying penalties up to 30 years in prison. Or even worse, prosecutors could add additional charges like aggravated identity theft that carries a mandatory two-year consecutive (additional) prison term of top of any sentence for the underlying crime of conviction like mail fraud.
A white-collar crime turned into armed robbery
Mail fraud and theft from a mailbox are both serious white-collar crimes, but adding armed robbery to the mix takes it to a whole new level. Ordinarily, armed robbery results in a state court prosecution, but when the robbery targets a federal mail carrier, it becomes a federal charge. If convicted, the perpetrator could face up to 25 years in prison for the robbery alone before considering the additional charges that might result from obtaining the stolen mail or using it in the commission of other crimes.
Postal employees are not just theft targets
In some cases, postal employees are not the targets of theft, but are accused of committing the crime. Attorney Daryl A. Goldberg represented a postal employee of selling Postal Money Orders and collecting U.S. passport fees. Mr. Goldberg was able to convince prosecutors to allow his client to enter a deferred prosecution agreement. He has also represented several other postal employees on various federal charges. If you believe you are under investigation by United States Postal Inspectors, contact Darryl A. Goldberg to schedule a consultation.