A Long Beach man was among 33 people recently charged by federal authorities with crimes against the U.S. Postal Service and its customers, with half of the cases alleging mail theft or the possession of stolen mail, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The charges are part of investigations by the USPS’s Office of Inspector General targeting criminal activity, with most of the defendants being USPS employees who allegedly stole mail, embezzled from the agency or, in one case, failed to deliver nearly 50,000 pieces of mail, according to a release.
Six of the 33 defendants were issued arrest warrants. Most of the defendants were charged in indictments returned by federal grand juries on Wednesday and Thursday of this week, officials stated.
The charges are part of 28 cases, half of them alleging mail theft and/or possession of stolen mail by USPS employees and contractors. Other cases charge employees with embezzlement, bank fraud, conspiracy, and false statements. Five cases allege crimes by non-employees, including mail theft and fraud related to the use of credit cards that were stolen from the mail, according to officials.
“The mail system plays an important role in our country's commerce and social communication,” stated U.S. Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “Mail theft across Southern California has increased recently, which is significant since this type of crime tends to be a precursor to other crimes like identity theft and drug offenses. As a result, we are stepping up enforcement activities, including dealing aggressively with corruption within the Postal Service.”
In one case, a Los Angeles postal carrier was charged with delaying the mail by hoarding what she was entrusted to deliver, according to officials. Authorities discovered more than 48,000 pieces of mail at the residence of 48-year-old Sherry Naomi Watanabe, according to a plea agreement. The mail was supposed to be delivered to mail customers on her route in Placentia, officials stated.
“The overwhelming majority of Postal Service employees are honest and dedicated public servants who are worthy of our trust. However, when employees engage in criminal activity, our agency will aggressively investigate these matters to protect the overall integrity of the Postal Service,” stated U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General Special Agent in Charge Brian Washington.
Other cases filed as part of the sweep include:
- Jose Hernandez, 35, of Long Beach, who worked for a USPS contractor, was charged with mail theft
- Tamika Deloach, 38, of Wilmington, a mail carrier, was charged with possessing stolen mail related to checks she allegedly stole from the mail and deposited into her credit union account
- Nicole Elwood, 45, of Atascadero, was charged with mail theft by a postal employee for allegedly stealing mail items containing medications, including medications sent from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to veterans
- Justin Brewster, 25, of Lake Elsinore, a USPS mail processing clerk, was charged with mail theft by a postal employee for allegedly stealing video games that were mailed to or from Gamefly
- Christian Wesley Johnson, 27, of Los Angeles, a postal clerk, was charged with mail theft for stealing mobile phones which, according to his plea agreement, were valued at about $15,000
- Deion Deshazier, 27, a former mail carrier, of Hawthorne, was charged with dumping and delaying mail
- James Freeman, 30, of Lakewood, a former mail carrier, was charged with bank fraud for allegedly misusing a USPS-issued gas card
- Monica Cavalier, 40, of Victorville, a former sales associate, was charged with making a false entry in an official record related to the sale of stamps related to her alleged embezzlement of funds from USPS
- Gary Nygard, 49, of Mission Hills, a former contract driver, was charged with conspiracy to steal government property by siphoning about 285 gallons of diesel fuel (paid for by USPS) from contractor trucks
- Eugene Brown, 43, of Compton, was charged with making a false statement relating to his criminal history in his employment application to work for the USPS
The defendants will be arraigned in the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, Santa Ana, and Riverside. The cases announced Friday were filed by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Ashwin Janakiram of the General Crimes Section.
Above, left photo of Long Beach USPS trucks by Stephanie Rivera.