Postal Inspectors Keep Focus on Mail Crimes, Despite Demands of Domestic Terrorism
Washington D.C.-- Postal Inspectors continued to combat mail crimes, despite a year in which domestic terrorism shifted their priorities. When a terrorist mailed four anthrax-laden letters last fall, U.S. Postal Inspection Service resources were overwhelmed by 17,735 related incidents involving suspicious mail. Resources were strained further when Postal Inspectors investigated placed pipe bombs that exploded in rural mailboxes across the Midwest, injuring four customers and two postal employees. The investigation concluded four days later with the arrest of a 21-year-old college student.
The U.S. Postal Inspection Service today released information on these and other crimes in its 2002 Annual Report of Investigations. The report highlights the investigative, security and crime prevention activities of the Postal Inspection Service, the law enforcement arm of the Postal Service.
"Postal Inspectors arrested 10,828 suspects this year for crimes involving the mail," said Chief Postal Inspector Lee R. Heath, "The men and women of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service have persevered to maintain the safety, security and integrity of the nation's mail system, and our 4,200 employees are dedicated to protecting the Postal Service, its employees and its customers from criminal attack."
More than 54 per cent of the arrests were for mail theft, many of which involved identity theft. Mail thieves seek information that gives them access to a person's finances. Thieves also look for mail containing credit cards, checks and merchandise, which can be converted to cash.
In addition to combating mail theft, Postal Inspectors responded to approximately 84,000 mail fraud complaints, resulting in 3,355 investigations. Inspectors arrested 1,634 criminals on mail fraud charges. Voluntary and court-ordered restitution totaled approximately $2 billion. One of the more significant corporate fraud cases of the year culminated in July, when Postal Inspectors arrested five executives of Adelphia Communications, the nation's sixth largest cable company. The defendants were charged with securities fraud, wire fraud, and bank fraud for failing to disclose billions of dollars worth of debt for which the company was liable.
To raise public awareness of fraud and illegal telemarketing against older citizens, Postal Inspectors and the Senior Action Coalition initiated "National Fraud Against Senior Citizens Awareness," a national education and awareness campaign.
The campaign proved its worth in the first week when an alert postmaster prevented a woman in her 80s from mailing a $2,200 cashier's check as "payment on taxes" for a supposed Canadian sweepstakes prize of $162,000.
Crime prevention and investigative efforts continue to show positive results. The Postal Service experienced a five-year decline in robberies, from 161 in 1998 to 99 in 2002. Assaults and threats on postal employees also dropped for the fifth straight year, from 1,255 in 1998 to 714 in 2002.
Postal Inspectors arrested 65 suspects in incidents related to mail bombs or bomb threats, including threats made against postal facilities, hoax devices, suspicious items in the mail, and bombs or explosive devices placed in private mail receptacles. For the first time ever, no mail bombs were reported.
Working to keep the mail free of all prohibited mailings--particularly child pornography, is a hallmark of the Postal Inspection Service. In 2002, Postal Inspectors arrested 249 suspects for child sexual exploitation offenses related to the mail. As a result of Inspectors' casework, 476 child molesters were identified and 530 child victims saved from further abuse.
Postal Inspectors aggressively investigate drug trafficking through the mail, which resulted in the arrest of 1,385 suspects and the seizure of more than 4,888 pounds of illegal drugs and 770,644 units of steroids; $1.6 million in cash and monetary instruments, five vehicles and 66 firearms were seized in conjunction with these cases.
Revenue and asset protection efforts by Postal Inspectors resulted in millions of dollars in savings and recoveries. Workers' compensation fraud investigations by Inspectors resulted in almost $108.4 million in savings from fraudulent claims. A four-year revenue investigation by Postal Inspectors of the largest mail preparation company in the New York area resulted in lengthy sentences for three owners and four managers for defrauding the Postal Service of more than $20 million. An in-depth story of the American Presort, Inc. case is included as a special insert in the report.
The U.S. Postal Inspection Service is responsible for enforcing more than 200 federal statutes that involve the U.S. Mail or the U.S. Postal Service. There are approximately 1,900 Postal Inspectors, 1,400 uniformed Postal Police Officers and 800 professional personnel nationwide