KN, p. 288 “Crime via the Post Office”

Read “Postal Inspectors: Law Enforcement Agents” here.

The United States Post Office has been around since the days of Benjamin Franklin, quietly doing a great job of delivering more mail to millions of U.S. residents than any other company, six days a week and sometimes Sundays. No other delivery company handles the volume of mail on a daily basis as the United States Postal Service. Sadly, we only hear about the USPS when something awful happens, and when nasty people take advantage of the efficient system already in place to carry out their nefarious plans.


Interestingly enough, the USPS can help work on postal treaties with other countries, so the rising cost of postage we have to put on packages to Canada or Europe etc., has been negotiated as part of certain economic trade packages.


But there is a branch of the USPS that works as a law enforcement arm: the United States Postal Inspection Service. They have special agents who are licensed to carry firearms, make arrests, and investigate suspected crime, as well as auditors who uncover fraud that targets Post Office services.


Benjamin Franklin was concerned about the rise in theft by the mail riders themselves, or others entrusted with safekeeping of the mail and its delivery, and in 1792, stealing the mail was considered so serious that the death penalty was imposed by Congress.


By the 1850s, more people headed west as the country rapidly expanded, and trains and stagecoaches were commonly used as a means to improve mail delivery throughout even the most remote territories. That move away from the one-rider-one-horse model to the speed that the train and the stagecoach provided, also created an explosion of train and stagecoach robberies. The Wild West had become a profitable place for bands of outlaws led by men like Billy the Kid, Butch Cassidy, and the Sundance Kid. In response, the USPIS (the United States Postal Inspection Service) grew in size and experience in order to investigate, arrest, and convict the culprits responsible for the theft of thousands of dollars in mail bags and gold.


As the railroad companies improved security and postal inspectors were issued Thompson submachine guns in the 1920s, train robberies dropped, but criminals like the “Black Hand” and Charles Ponzi found other ways to take advantage of and sabotage the mails.


The “Black Hand” threatened people with bodily harm via letters if they didn’t come up with cash. Charles Ponzi, the creator of the pyramid scheme, swindled would-be postal coupon investors by promising to double their money in three months time. Even some Boston investigators sent to check out the wild interest in Ponzi’s company fell for his savvy pitch and invested their hard-earned money. In reality, all he did was collect big bucks from people, then get new ‘investors’ to hand over their cash, which Ponzi gave to the old investors as return on their investments – which meant that he was always upside down financially. By the time he was convicted, he had $110 million on hand, but owed $200 million to the investors. The people that cashed out early were fortunate. The people last in line lost everything.

The USPIS has broken up art fraud rings, helped capture Ted Kaczynski (the Unabomber), and partnered with the FBI to investigate the mailing of the four deadly Anthrax letters sent in 2001.


Be reassured that after the spate of bomb deliveries to unsuspecting customers, dogs have been employed, along with other explosive detection devices, to sniff out the deadly packages before they ever leave the postal delivery hubs.


The USPIS website mentioned examples of fraud they have uncovered, including a trucking contractor defrauding the Postal Service of $1.5 million in fuel rebates; a highway route contractor defrauding the Postal Service of $120,468 for services not rendered; and a construction contractor charging the Postal Service $175,630 for work never done. Shaking my head at the stupidity of people thinking they could get way with not paying the taxes and fees.


The USPIS investigates and prosecutes cases of:

  • Consumer fraud (including sports memorabilia – game jerseys not worn by the star)
  • Counterfeit money orders and stamps
  • Misrepresentation of items sold through the mail
  • Money laundering
  • Cybercrimes (committed online, generally using computers or handheld devices, almost always involving the postal system. The criminal commits identity theft, gathers financial and other information, then uses that information to contact unsuspecting targets through emails to pitch large $$ scams.)

Drugs thru the mail
Pharmacies have delivered prescriptions to law-abiding citizens for decades, but they are not the only ones using the system. Drug cartels have discovered how well the USPS operates, so the USPIS works with US Customs and Border Protection, and other federal agencies to stop the almost epidemic cases of opioid mail delivery.

The Postal Inspectors have employed time honored methods to catch the bad guys:

  • Collect the evidence
  • Identify the suspects
  • Work with the National Forensic Lab to develop a fact pattern that they can take to a U.S. Attorney


There are hundreds of cases that have been investigated and solved with the involvement of the United States Postal Inspection Service. Please check out for some great information about how the Post Office helps you every day. If you’re interested in the training the Postal Inspectors undergo, or how to become one, check them out.


*Photos and logo courtesy of the USPIS.




KN, p. 287 “Postal Inspectors: Law Enforcement Agents”



Most of us think of the Post Office as the local place where we mail packages, pick up our mail from those handy P.O. Boxes, and buy stamps from the helpful window clerks. In fact there are many different types of employees within the country’s postal system, including Postal Inspectors and Postal Police Officers. The 1200 Postal Inspectors are federal law enforcement officers entitled to carry firearms and make arrests in order to protect the system from people that would commit fraud through its use.


The first Postmaster General of the United States, Benjamin Franklin, set up a system back in the 1770s whereby mail theft could be investigated by the newly formed U.S. Postal Inspection Service. 240+ years later, there are 200 laws that deal with specific crimes against the USPS. These days, much more than letters and money is stolen from the mail and the postal service is used by nefarious types for transporting all kinds of illegal items, including pornography.

The USPIS reports that it made 5,759 arrests in 2019, with an 80% conviction rate, largely for mail theft and mail fraud.

While mail and package thefts are thoroughly investigated, those thefts pale in comparison monetarily to the millions of dollars of illegal drugs that criminals attempt to pass through the system each year. The USPIS employs state-of-the-art methods at their National Forensic Laboratory in Virginia to detect and identify opioids and other drugs after seizure, process fingerprints and DNA to tie the drugs to the bad guys, and ferret out cyber criminals of all types that seek to misuse the mails.

Due to the growing global problems with opioid and fentanyl trafficking, the USPIS agents work cases together with the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency), Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection to enforce the laws of our country. One interesting method of detecting illicit drugs in the mail allows inspectors to check for 300+ substances without ever opening the packages.

The USPS takes the mission of guarding the mail quite seriously and has a few tips for private citizens to help avoid theft of packages and letters. Check them out:

  • Pick up your mail daily. If you’ll be away, contact the local post office and have them hold your mail until you return.
  • Don’t send cash in the mail.
  • If you need to send something important in the mail, take it to the physical post office or drop it in one of the big blue mail boxes right before pickup time.

If you expect to receive a particular piece of mail and don’t, call the local post office and/or call the sender as soon as you realize it hasn’t arrived on time.


If you suspect mail fraud, you can report it by writing to this address:

Criminal Investigations Service Center
Attn: Mail Fraud
433 W.Harrison Street, Room 3255
Chicago, Il 60699-3255


Just in case you think that the USPIS focuses on the bad guys alone, they also send out emergency response teams after natural disasters (like fires and hurricanes) in order to restart mail service.


The USPIS press kit ( points out some of the agency’s duties and history.

Stay tuned for the next article about the USPIS, where I share information about high profile cases in which they have been involved.


KN, p. 280 “Was It Medical Malpractice?”

One of the Carolina cousins passed away this summer. Way too many sleepless nights had finally led him to see the doc and undergo testing, then in April was diagnosed with a serious, but treatable, type of cancer.

The doc revealed his treatment plan: Surgery would take 6-8 hours, followed by a typical hospital stay of 6-8 days, two weeks tops, then a rehab facility for two weeks, then home to live a full, active life for another 5-6 years.

A few weeks of inconvenience as a trade off for 5-6 years, maybe more? A pretty good deal.

Except that it wasn’t at all.

He was in the hospital for a hideous 35 days of never-ending tests and noise and food that tasted so vile to him that he couldn’t get it down. I was with him almost every day in order to advocate for him and keep him company. He wanted to go home (with help) but he was discharged to a skilled nursing facility to get the occupational therapy he still needed.

Less than two weeks later, he was released to his house on a Friday afternoon without medical assistance in place for the weekend. By Monday, he was back in the hospital, a local one. They ran various tests and discovered a life-threatening infection that the skilled nursing facility would/should have known about. By the end of the week, he was in Hospice care in a local facility. He ended his days there, about three weeks later.

Our cousin was not an easy patient (translation: grumpy) but with a hospital stay 25-30 days longer than predicted, and never regaining an appetite to eat, I’d be grumpy, too.

Several people have suggested that we have a malpractice suit in the making.

From the AMA (American Medical Association): “Malpractice is, by definition, medical care that is grossly inferior to what is normally provided by other physicians in the community. Using this legal definition, and based on local standards of care, less than 10 percent of cases filed for litigation are instances of malpractice.”

From The American Board of Professional Liability Attorneys:
“The injured patient must show that the physician acted negligently in rendering care, and that such negligence resulted in injury. To do so, legal elements must be proven:

(1) a professional duty owed to the patient;

(2) breach of such duty;

(3) injury caused by the breach;


Here are some examples of medical negligence that might lead to a lawsuit:

  • Failure to diagnose or a misdiagnosis.
  • Misreading or ignoring laboratory results.
  • Unnecessary surgery.
  • Surgical errors (puncturing other organs) or wrong site surgery (wrong body part) or leaving medical tools inside the patient.
  • Improper medication or dosage (including amount and/or type of anesthesia)
  • Poor follow-up or aftercare.
  • Premature discharge.

Our suspicion is that somebody dropped the ball at the first skilled nursing place. He had been chatty a few days before, planning the renovation projects in his house, and looking forward to getting home to food that he enjoyed. He had become self-sufficient in every way except for care of his surgical area. In our opinion, a few more days of training would have helped with that. But, just because we found fault with the care isn’t proof of medical negligence.


I came down with pleurisy, so didn’t observe his condition during the final days leading up to his discharge from that facility.

This was never a case of Covid related problems. Patients had to be Covid-free in order to be admitted to any of the facilities. Each staff member was tested daily and nobody entered the buildings without a mask.

It’s been five months since the diagnosis and two months since he died. Pointing fingers is a natural reaction, because we want to blame someone for an untimely death. Our opinion that somebody ‘dropped the ball’ is not enough for legal recourse. There must be proof of negligence, and people available/willing to testify to wrong doing.


Sad, but true, the fact is that people can die after a serious illness or prolonged surgery. Emotions run high when that happens, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that a crime was committed.


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