Update 6/20/2015: The Associated Press reports that mail handler Sharon Berrien has made a plea deal to keep her out of jail:
A postal worker accused of stealing as many as 2,000 pieces of mail in suburban Detroit will escape charges if she pays $1,500 and meets other conditions.
Court filings show the government dropped a criminal complaint against Sharon Berrien. Instead, she’ll pay $50 a month toward her debt, perform 40 hours of community service and follow other requirements for one year.
A judge approved the deal Friday.
The original story, posted last December:
An employee at the postal service’s Detroit Processing and Distribution Center has admitted to stealing and rifling as many as 2,000 pieces of mail because she was “bored”. Sharon Berrien, a mail handler with twenty eight years in the USPS, says she took shopping bags full of greeting cards home with her. She then stole whatever cash she could find in the cards, and discarded the rest- tossing hundreds of pieces of mail out her car window as she drove down I-94.
The thefts came to light in October when a customer found numerous rifled greeting cards along an I-94 exit ramp. Some of the opened envelopes contained checks and gift cards, but none contained cash. The customer turned the recovered mail over to the USPS- his wife reported that she had seen mail discarded in the same area two months earlier. Based on the characteristics of the discarded mail, investigators determined that it had been processed on the Low Cost Tray Sorter (LCTS) at the Detroit P&DC. A review of time card records showed that Berrien had been working on the LCTS during the time that the letters were processed. The exit ramp where much of the mail was found also happened to be on the direct route from the P&DC to Berrien’s home.
On November 21, 2014, agents searched the trash that Berrien had left by the curb for pickup. They found about 800 rifled greeting cards. Like the mail found earlier, some of the cards contained gift cards and checks- none contained cash.
Three days later OIG agents interviewed Berrien at the P&DC. When they advised her that they had found rifled mail in her trash, Berrien, saying she felt embarrassed and humiliated. She confessed to taking mail home in plastic shopping bags, and concealing it in a closet until she was alone. Then she would look through the cards for cash, ignoring checks and gift cards. Berrien said she had no financial or substance abuse problems. Asked why she did it, she said “I was bored”. To Berrien, the thefts were a game- she said she just wanted to see if she could get away with it, and “it got out of hand”.
Berrien said she started stealing in the Spring of this year. She stole about once a week, the last thefts coming on November 22. Altogether, she estimates she stole between $1,000 and $1,500. After the interview, Berrien’s USPS ID badge was confiscated, and she was escorted off the premises. She is currently under Emergency Placement off duty. A search of her apartment disclosed three additional bags of rifled mail in a closet.
An criminal complaint was filed in Federal Court in Detroit yesterday charging Berrien with Theft of Mail by a Postal Employee. No word yet on when Berrien will appear in court to answer the charge.