Federal agents have arrested at least three U.S. Postal Service employees in Maryland in recent weeks, accused of either stealing or trashing mail, according to a review of court filings by the News4.
Each faces a federal criminal charge and is under investigation by the U.S. Postal Service's Office of Inspector General.
Angela Wells, a Gaithersburg mail processing clerk, was charged Wednesday with illegally opening mail.
Wells is accused of stealing gifts cards from the parcels she was handling. She works at the agency's Suburban Mail Processing and Distribution Center near Interstate 270, and is responsible for the sort and collecting mail, according to an affidavit from a federal agent.
In at least one instance, according to a court filing in her case, Wells acknowledged stealing a Macy's gift card and other items that have "been loose from the mail," including up to $150 in cash and other gift cards.
In the court filing, agents said the Macy's card was used at the Valley Mall Macy's in Hagerstown. They said phone records indicate Wells called to inquire about another stolen gift card shortly before it was used.
Wells was reached by phone by News4, but declined to comment.
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In other cases, letter carriers in Prince George's County are accused of trashing mail they were assigned to deliver. Each case occurred earlier this summer.
A letter carrier from the Westlake Post Office in Bethesda was charged Wednesday with destruction of mail. According to a court filing from federal investigators, the letter carrier threw away 100 piece of mail "because he was afraid he would be fired (for) bringing undelivered mail back to the post office."
The court filings said a witness saw the letter carrier pull his truck up to a dumpster behind an office. The witness later opened the dumpster and saw "a lot of U.S. mail discarded inside," according to court records.
In a separate case, a letter carrier from the Temple Hills Post Office is accused of dumping a bag of undelivered mail in a trash can at the end of a driveway in Brandywine. The woman who lived in the home beside the driveway found the bag of mail and returned it to a post office in Brandywine, according to a court filing by a federal agent.
The agent, also in his court filings, said U.S. Postal Service records show the letter carrier deviated from her route one day in mid-May and instead parked her vehicle at a Sunoco gas station in Brandywine during her on-duty hours. The gas station is near the letter carrier's home, the agent wrote.
Agency records obtained by News4 show 1,607 investigations into mail theft by U.S. Postal Service employees in 2015. In at least 493 cases, the employees were arrested.
"Unfortunately, a small number of employees abuse the public's trust by delaying or stealing the mail," a report from the U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General said.
In a statement, Paul L. Bowman, special agent in charge of the Capital Metro Area Field Office, U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General (USPS OIG) said: "The American public expects to receive their letters on time and intact. Citizens have an expectation their mail will not be stolen, rifled, read or obstructed while in the possession of U.S. Postal Service employees. The vast majority of U.S. Postal Service personnel are dedicated, hard-working public servants whose daily efforts instill trust in America's postal system. However, it takes only one incident to potentially diminish this trust, and Office of Inspector General special agents vigorously investigate and work with local, state and federal prosecutors to hold accountable those employees who violate that public trust."