It’s In The Mail

ImageIn one of my previous lives, I worked for a company that, among its various business ventures, owned a mailboxes service. I would pop in occasionally to see how this and other nearby businesses were doing and, on one such visit, I found myself in the middle of an adventure. In the morning, shortly after the store opened, a man walked in and flashed his very impressive-looking badge. He explained that a woman was going to come in later in the day to pick up a package and that he needed to be present when this happened. Unsure what was going on, yet thoroughly impressed by the badge, the store’s staff agreed to let the man set himself up behind the counter, in wait for the woman. In no time, the man had settled himself in a chair, opened up a newspaper and blended into the scenery. A short while later, the store’s phone rang and one of the store’s employees answered a call for the woman they were waiting for. She asked if her package had arrived. Upon hearing that it had, she requested that someone bring it out to her car, as she was waiting outside the store. The employee explained that it was the store’s policy that all customers come in to pick up and sign for their own packages. After a short back and forth, he hung up the phone and a few minutes later a small woman in massive sunglasses walked in. The agent paid her no notice and appeared, instead, to be engrossed in a phone conversation with a friend. The woman signed for her package and turned to leave with it. As she did so, the agent whispered urgently into his phone and, suddenly, the mailboxes store turned into a scene straight out of the movies. Men in dark glasses, holding guns, burst in through the door, our agent behind the counter surged forward and, in no time, the woman was under arrest and her box was in their custody. Before he left, the agent explained that this woman was one of a group of people shipping some drug along the lines of PCP. Suffice to say, we were all pretty speechless and the most amazing thing of all? These guys worked for the US Postal Service. Yes, those folks who will let “Neither snow nor rain nor heat…” keep them from delivering your mail will not let crime hang out in their system either.

The United States Postal Inspection Service, founded by Benjamin Franklin, is the primary law enforcement arm of the US Postal Service and one of the oldest federal law enforcement agencies in the United States. Their goal is to protect against those who  “attack our nation’s postal system and misuse it to defraud, endanger, or otherwise threaten the American public.” You would be amazed how many criminals use the postal service as a conduit for perpetuating their crimes (using services such as UPS and FedEx for crimes that cross state lines is also covered by these laws). When Charles Ponzi was arrested for taking people’s money in a giant fraud that came to be known by his last name, the Ponzi Scheme, he was arrested by the US Postal Inspection Service because he had used the mail system to write to his investors, encouraging them to reinvest their funds.  He was charged with and went to jail for mail fraud.

If a person sends you mail in order to ensnare you in some kind of scam, to make an illegal delivery or to otherwise commit a crime, that is mail fraud. Conversely, if someone has scammed you and you end up sending that person money or some other item of value, that too is also considered mail fraud and that person can be prosecuted for it. Since a lot of mail fraud involves financial schemes, the work of financial forensics experts is quite important in the crime fighting work of the US Postal Inspection Service. If, for example, a person were running a pyramid scheme that involves people mailing in funds to invest in the scheme, a forensic accountant would be needed to track and follow the money trail and build a case against the criminal carrying out the scheme. Also, say you received a solicitation to send money to a fake charity and you sent payment in the mail. A forensic CPA’s skills would go a long way in exposing and putting a stop to the bad deeds of the fake charity.

The US Postal Service provides a very important service. It is well known that stealing mail is a federal crime but few realize just how far the US Postal Service and its law enforcement agents go to maintain the integrity of the postal service. Much trust is placed in those blue boxes and this is because of the work of these agents.

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5 thoughts on “It’s In The Mail

  1. Kyra says:

    Hey Rumbi! Love your blog and this piece really resonates as my dad is a retired US Postal Inspector. He has some great stories. He worked on the EF Hutton case in the 1980s. The firm was kiting checks via the mail. It was the Postal Inspectors who caught and indicted the firm. He also chased down bad guys who stole mail and shot postal carriers in Phillly. He was part of the bomb squad when suspicious packages came through. He also audited post offices, including a major audit that uncovered huge problems at the NYC post office in the 80s. It’s a great place to work for audit forensics professionals.

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    • Hey Kyra! That is absolutely fascinating! I am sure many people have no idea how many cases involve the work of Postal Inspectors. You are right – it is a great place to work for audit forensic professionals. Who knew the mail could be so fascinating?!

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  2. Kyra says:

    My dad worked there for 25 years and loved every minute of being a Postal Inspector. He always says that he would have worked for half of what they paid him if he also could keep the gov’t car.

    He read your blog post and sent over a few more interesting facts.

    – Ben Franklin established the ‘Surveyors’ in 1772 to regulate and audit post officers to insure honesty and returns of money to England. In 1880 the name was changed to ‘Inspectors’.
    – In 1792 Congress imposes death penalty for stealing mail (since been repealed)
    – In the 1890’s it was the Postal Inspectors along with Pinkertons chasing Butch Cassidy and Sundance. Butch real name Robert Parker and got the nick name butch from working as butcher.
    – During the 1940′ 50’s Dutchie Shultz, known bank robber, robbed a bank that had a post office station inside, Dutchie put chalk line on the floor and wrote,”Postal Inspectors we didn’t go in”.
    – In 1958 the Hope Diamond was moved by Postal Inspectors to the Smithsonian.
    – In 1971 Inspection Service was the first federal law enforcement agency to hire women agents.
    – In 1998 Ted Kaczynski, Unabomber, investigation led mostly by PI’s. My dad did a little work on this case conducting interviews in Conn after the Yale bombing of a professor. (Ironic if you know our last name)
    – 1983 Postal Inspectors arrest EF Hutton, countries larges stock breakage firm, my dad was one of the 5 Inspectors who worked the investigation. He prepared most of the 1000 count indictment presented at trial where they pled guilty to all of them.
    – The Postal museum, part of the Smithsonian, the old Washington Post Office, has a large section dedicated to the Postal Inspection Service.

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  3. This is incredible information. Please thank him for me. I hope one day I shall be able to chat with him and pick his brain. The work and influence of the Postal Inspection Service is greater than I imagined!

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  4. […] when Grant Thornton discovered the fraud and reported it, the investigation was carried out by the US Postal Inspection Service and headed by Postal Inspector Melissa Atkin. True to the elements of the fraud triangle, Haber […]

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