Updated 4:05 p.m. ET
Most of the 574,000 employees of the U.S. Postal Service complete their appointed rounds and quickly move envelopes and packages to final destinations. But some postal workers steal mail, burn it, hoard it or claim thousands of dollars in fraudulent workers compensation claims, according to a new watchdog report.
There’s a Texas letter carrier who earned $207,706 in fraudulent workers compensation payments after submitting false travel vouchers over five years for approximately 96,000 miles in medical reimbursable transportation claims. Though she submitted a total of 480 travel reimbursement requests, the letter carrier only actually traveled to 13 medical appointments. She was sentenced in August to three years of probation and a year of home confinement, and she was ordered to pay $172,000 in restitution.
Details of the case appear in a semiannual report published this week by the U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General that reports on dozens of other postal employees who violated policies or broke the law:
— A former Michigan letter carrier was arrested in May and admitted to fraudulently reporting 20 on-the-job injuries over 16 years with USPS. While on the job, investigators determined the letter carrier also was selling real estate. The letter carrier was ordered to complete 40 hours of community service, to pay about $7,000 in restitution and to never seek future federal employment.
— In April, a letter carrier pleaded guilty to Social Security fraud after admitting he had been cashing his dead mother’s benefit checks since her death in 2002. The letter carrier was sentenced to five years of probation and ordered to pay restitution of $41,635.
Though letter carriers are instructed to deliver the mail no matter what, some choose to steal their deliveries instead:
— A Kentucky letter carrier pleaded guilty in May after customers complained that they weren’t receivng mail. In February 2010, investigators discovered about 3,310 pieces of stolen mail in the letter carrier’s vehicle. She had tucked the mail into door pockets, the sun visor, rear seats and the trunk. An opened letter in the front passenger seat of the vehicle was found open with funds from the envelope on the driver console. The letter carrier was fired, and she was sentenced to four months in prison and 60 hours of community service, and she was ordered to pay $3,100 in restitution.
— In Maryland, investigators discovered piles of undelivered and burned mail in an abandoned wooden lot. A postal vehicle operator admitted to the crime and was sentenced to six months in prison, six months of home detention, two months supervised release and 100 hours of community service.
— Between 2007 and 2009, the inspector general’s office received numerous complaints that gift cards were not being delivered. Investigators determined that a Cincinnati mail handler stole more than $10,000 in cash and $1,000 in gift cards from letters sent through his work area. The mail handler resigned from the Postal Service and pleaded guilty to theft of mail in May.
Beyond bad actors, the National Association of Letter Carriers in November bestowed its annual “Hero of the Year” award to workers from California, Illinois, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma and Virginia who were nominated by colleagues for going above and beyond the call of duty.
The employees who earned the honor helped resuscitate a customer who had difficulty breathing, tracked down a burglar, provided eyewitness testimony to police, rescued an elderly customer from her burning home, helped rescue two people whose vehicle was submerged in a swimming pool, gave a young boy with inoperable cancer the chance to be a letter carrier for a day and participated in a medical mission to the Dominican Republic.
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