Postal Employee Indicted: Investigation Ongoing
Special Agent Adrian Valdez of the USPS Office of the Inspector General (OIG) spoke at the Community Council meeting Thursday night and said that he and his wife like Nextdoor, the social media site, because it offers community information.
But, if there are issues with one’s local post office or the U.S. Postal Service, such as mail theft, mail tampering, or problems with postal boxes, one should go immediately to the authorities.
The Palisades post office came under suspicion at the end of October when resident Jim Lubinski wrote on Nextdoor Palisades: “I just want you to be on the lookout for money/gift cards being stolen out of greeting cards mailed to us. I believe it is being stolen by an employee of the postal service in our area. I have received three greeting cards in the last two weeks from different areas of the country.
“All have been ripped open and the money(cash) or gift card has been taken out of it,” Lubinski posted. “I believe it is a postal worker in our vicinity…I will go to the Palisades post office today to report it directly to them as well as filing a complaint on line at USPS.com.”
The thread on Nextdoor grew to more than 160 postings about various problems involving the postal service, but few people said that they had reported their complaint to postal authorities.
“We can’t do anything unless you report it,” Valdez said. “My number-one goal is to protect the sanctity of the seal. The U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General (USPS OIG) strives to maintain the integrity and accountability of America’s postal service, its revenue, assets, and employees. We want you to believe and trust in the Postal Service.”
In an email to Circling the News the next day, Valdez said that a case has been presented “to the U.S. Attorney’s Office related to allegations of mail theft in the Pacific Palisades area.
“On December 4, 2018, a Grand Jury in the Central District of California issued a True Bill Indictment charging a former postal employee with a two-count violation of Title 18 U.S.C. 1344 (2): Bank fraud and a two count violation of Title 18 U.S.C. 1709: Theft of Mail by Postal Service Employee,” said Valdez, who stressed that there’s still an ongoing investigation in the Pacific Palisades area to address pending mail theft allegations.
“The overwhelming majority of Postal Service employees are honest and dedicated public servants who are worthy of our trust,” Valdez said. “However, when employees engage in criminal activity, our agency will aggressively investigate these matters to protect the overall integrity of the Postal Service.”
He urged those in Pacific Palisades who were aware of crimes involving theft of mail to call USPS OIG hotlines: (888) USPS-OIG or email: HOTLINE@uspsoig.gov, or by mail: USPS OIG Hotline, 1735 N. Lynn St.. Arlington, VA 22209-2020.
At Thursday’s meeting, one resident said that payment checks had been mailed via the blue box at Radcliffe and Carthage Streets, and also at La Cruz across from the post office. The checks had been taken from the envelopes, and the resident had to close out bank accounts and change payment to online.
USPS Inspection Service’s Stacia Crane offered several tips at the PPCC meeting.
If you want to mail something, make sure you hand it to your carrier or take it to the post office—and do NOT send cash in the mail. The reason? There are people who place a sticky “fly trap” inside a postal box, which prevents a letter from falling to the bottom of the box. That means mail can be pulled out.
If a resident sees someone at a mailbox trying to fish something out, report it. “As soon as you see it, notify your local post office, so we can fix it,” Crane said.
One resident suggested that perhaps a postal employee was responsible for the mail-box thefts. Crane said that employees are vetted, but in this case, “I would say it was an outside situation,” because different carriers pick up at different boxes.
Crane said that there are criminals who watch the boxes and once the person leaves, the thief “fishes it out.”
One additional tip from Crane was if you write a check, use gel ink. “That can’t be washed out like other inks,” she said.
New Palisades Postmaster Uco Johnson was introduced. Initially, he had come to the Palisades in May 2018, but was then pulled back to El Segundo. He is now back here full-time and eager to work with the community.
“I have been with the postal service for 20 years,” Johnson said. “We take all issues seriously, we take theft seriously.”
He was told that some people didn’t want to report incidents because they worried about retaliation from postal employees.
Johnson, who oversees the 55 employees at the Palisades post office, reassured residents that complaints are taken seriously, and that retaliation is not tolerated.
“All mail is important,” he said. “If anyone is my facility is stealing, I want them caught and apprehended.”
Someone asked why the mail is sometimes delivered late. “If a carrier calls in sick,” Johnson said, “that route has to be split up. Carriers do their own customers first and then do the other route.”
Why does the Postal Service work on Sunday? That is the day they deliver Amazon.
If you feel you have been a victim of mail theft in the Palisades, call investigator A. Shelton at 562-343-9892 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.