LOS ANGELES – Thirty-three defendants were charged as part of a sweep targeting criminal activity that has victimized the United States Postal Service (USPS) and its customers. Most of the defendants charged as part of the sweep are USPS employees who allegedly stole mail, embezzled from the agency or, in one case, failed to deliver nearly 50,000 pieces of mail.
Arrest warrants were issued for 6 of the 33 defendants, who were recently charged as a result of investigations by the USPS’s Office of Inspector General. Most of the defendants were charged in indictments that were returned by federal grand juries on Wednesday and Thursday this week.
The 33 defendants are charged across 28 cases, about half of which allege mail theft and/or possession of stolen mail by USPS employees and contractors. Other cases charge USPS employees with conspiracy, embezzlement, bank fraud, and false statements. Five of the cases allege crimes by non-employees, including mail theft and fraud related to the use of credit cards that had been stolen from the mail.
In one case announced today, the former local area president of the Mail Handlers Union was charged with conspiracy and possession of stolen mail. Jarol Garcia, 33, of Hemet, who formerly worked at the Moreno Valley Delivery Distribution Center as a mail handler, stole mobile phones from parcels going through the center and traded the phones after offering them for exchange on a website, according to an indictment, which also alleges that Garcia, in December 2015, possessed at least 166 mobile phones stolen from the mail.
Another case charges a mail carrier from the Mid-City District of Los Angeles with conspiracy to commit access device (credit card) fraud and to steal mail. The indictment alleges that Norman A. Muschamp, 48, was part of a conspiracy to use information belonging to identity theft victims to order pre-paid PayPal debit cards that were sent to primarily non-existent addresses on his mail route. Muschamp allegedly participated in the scheme by obtaining the PayPal debit cards from the mail and delivering them to co-conspirators in exchange for cash. Investigators who are continuing to investigate the overall scheme believe it caused hundreds of thousands of dollars in losses.
In another case, a postal carrier from the Sawtelle District of Los Angeles was charged with delaying the mail by effectively hoarding the mail she was entrusted to deliver. Sherry Naomi Watanabe, 48, was found to have more than 48,000 pieces of mail in her residence, according to a plea agreement, that was supposed to be delivered to mail customers on her route in Placentia.
“The mail system plays an important role in our country’s commerce and social communication. Maintaining its integrity is vital,” said United States 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.”
“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,” said U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General Special Agent in Charge Brian Washington.
Other cases filed as part of the sweep include the following:
- Vince Johnson, 30, of Carson, who worked for a USPS contractor, was charged with possession of stolen mail;
- 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;
- Charell Watson, 32, of West Covina, formerly a mail processing clerk, was charged with theft of mail by a postal employee;
- Nicole Elwood, 45, of Atascadero, was charged with theft of mail by a postal employee for allegedly stealing mail items containing medications, including medications sent from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to veterans;
- Kayla Young, 23, of Diamond Bar, was charged with mail theft by a postal employee;
- Michael Smith, 43, of Lake Elsinore, was charged with mail theft by a postal employee for allegedly stealing money orders from a mail envelope;
- 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 (90044), a postal clerk, was charged with mail theft by a postal employee for stealing mobile phones, which, according to his plea agreement, were valued at approximately $15,000; and
- Deion Deshazier, 27, a former mail carrier, of Hawthorne, was charged with dumping and delaying mail;
- Betty Owens, 73, of Oakland, a former mail handler, was charged with a misdemeanor offense of theft of government property (for fraudulent mileage reimbursements).
- Lisa Thornberry, 31, of Rancho Cucamonga, and Ian McCown, 34, of Alta Loma, were charged with conspiring with each other to steal mail and possessing stolen mail;
- Chelsea Green, 24, of Canoga Park, a former mail carrier, was charged with bank fraud for allegedly misusing a USPS-issued gas card and fraudulently using the PIN of another USPS employee to fuel her personal vehicle;
- James Freeman, 30, of Lakewood, a former mail carrier, was charged with bank fraud for allegedly misusing a USPS-issued gas card;
- Mary Williams, 60, of Los Angeles (90002), a former USPS sales associate, was charged with making a false entry in an official record related to her alleged embezzlement of funds from USPS;
- Victoria Uribe, 48, of Rancho Cucamonga, a former USPS sales associate, was charged with making a false entry in an official record related to her alleged embezzlement of funds from USPS;
- Lucy Plambeck, 66, of Paso Robles, a former USPS sales associate, was charged with making a false entry in an official record related to her alleged embezzlement of funds from USPS;
- 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;
- Johnnie Macon, 34, of Los Angeles (90011), a former postal support employee, who was charged with embezzlement of postal funds and making a false entry in an official record related to the fraudulent voiding of postal money orders;
- Gary Nygard, 49, of Mission Hills, a former contract driver, was charged with conspiracy to steal government property by siphoning approximately 385 gallons of diesel fuel (paid for by USPS) from contractor trucks;
- Raymond Coffin, 24, of Adelanto, a mail carrier, was charged with bank fraud for allegedly misusing a USPS-issued gas card;
- 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;
An indictment or criminal information contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.
Defendants charged as part of the sweep will be arraigned in the United States District Court in Los Angeles, Santa Ana, and Riverside.
The cases announced today were filed by Special Assistant United States Attorney Ashwin Janakiram of the General Crimes Section.