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13 WTHR Indianapolis | Indianapolis Local News & Weather

Mail theft in Indiana: Complaints reveal zip codes impacted

Over the last two years, hundreds of workers have been arrested across the country for stealing what belongs to you.

INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) — Over the last two years, hundreds of workers have been arrested across the country for stealing what belongs to you.

Mugshots of former mail handlers from across Indiana show mail theft can be a problem in any zip code.

Postal workers entrusted to sort mail and make deliveries to your door are busted for snatching gift cards, checks and even prescription drugs right out of the mail processing centers where they work.

One employee was fired after getting caught on surveillance video at Walmart using a stolen gift card reported missing from a letter.

Another mail clerk intercepted and cashed $12,000 in pension checks from Navient in Fishers.

"We discovered the issue and turned it over to law enforcement," said Paul Hartwick, Navient spokesman. "We're pleased they were able to solve the case and ultimately bring it to justice."

And two supervisors working in different parts of the state separately confiscated package after package of potent painkillers intended for sick veterans.

The meds were from the VA Medical Center. Investigators revealed that some of the pills were sold on the street, bringing in as much as $10,000.

In fact, during a one-year period between Jan. 1, 2017 and Dec. 2018, 425 postal workers were arrested nationwide for mail theft.

"The U.S. Postal Service employs more than 630,000 employees," said Kevin Cloninger, the assistant special agent in charge for the Great Lakes Area Field Office. "The overwhelming majority of postal service employees, which serve the public, are honest, hardworking, and trustworthy individuals."

Still, some of the cases reported are so egregious they often grab headlines from coast to coast.

One of those cases involved a LaPorte letter carrier who paid a man to dump 11,000 pieces of mail in Michigan. The letter carrier hid another 6,000 pieces in his northern Indiana home.

13 Investigates wanted to know how the thefts happen, where they happen and who's targeted most in Indiana.

The answers were in hundreds of pages of records on stolen and missing mail obtained by 13 Investigates from the Inspector General of the United States Postal Service.

Here's what 13 Investigates found from January 2018 through August 2019:

  • 286 cases were referred to the Office of the Inspector General.
  • At least 29 zip codes had three or more suspected incidents.
  • During the same time, 36-OIG cases resulted in full-scale criminal investigations.
  • The cases stretched across the state from Merrillville to Michigan City, Fishers to Indianapolis, and south to Newburgh.
  • Also, criminal charges were filed in 50 cases in Indiana.
  • The number of criminal charges is higher than the number of referred investigations due to carryover cases from the previous year.
  • Half of the cases charged resulted in either a guilty plea or a diversion program, and often times required the mail handler to make restitution.

One of the repeat targets over the years is the veterans administration.

In a statement, Indiana VA Public Affairs Office, Richard Griffin, told 13 Investigates:

"Each year, nearly 62,000 veterans get health care in a VA facility in central and southern Indiana. The US Postal Service is a key partner in ensuring America's Veterans get the care they have earned. We appreciate the work the Postal Service does to investigate potential crimes and then resolve them."

If a veteran suspects medication has been stolen, Griffin said the veteran should report it to police and contact the VA Pharmacy Call Center for replacements.

Cloninger also said those impacted should always report stolen or missing mail to the USPS Inspector General Hotline.