Iowa Man Sentenced to Federal Prison for Making Over $250,000 in Phony Postage

An Iowa man, who forged and counterfeited over $250,000 in postage and made false statements on international customs forms, was sentenced on November 12, 2021, to three years in federal prison.

Bradley Jon Matheny, age 43, from Marion, Iowa, received the prison term after a March 2, 2021 verdict finding him guilty of seven counts of postage meter stamp forgery and counterfeiting and three counts of export violations.  The verdict and sentencing followed a day-long trial that was held in February.

The evidence at the trial and the sentencing hearing showed that Matheny operated an eBay business known as “Mathenys” from his residence in Marion.  Through “Mathenys,” Matheny sold retail goods to individuals all over the United States and around the world.  Matheny used the United States Postal Service (USPS) to ship these goods to his customers.  In 2015, for example, Matheny shipped over 28,000 packages with the USPS.  Postage posed a significant financial cost to Matheny’s business.  To reduce his costs, and increase his profit, Matheny possessed and used forged and counterfeited postage meter stamps on many of the packages he sent to his customers between 2013 and 2017.

In 2015, USPS personnel at the Cedar Rapids Main Post Office became suspicious of Matheny’s mailing practices after he kept dropping off his packages at the post office late in the evening at the dock.  USPS eventually alerted federal law enforcement, specifically the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), that Matheny might be falsifying postage in connection with his eBay business.  A review of Matheny’s packages in late 2015 revealed that most of Matheny’s packages had either insufficient postage or a forged or counterfeited postage meter stamp.  Similar reviews in 2016 and 2017 yielded similar results.

In 2017, law enforcement officers executed a federal search warrant at Matheny’s residence, a single-family house in Marion.  During the search, the USPIS seized a large number of unusual paper clippings of partial Priority Mail and First Class postage meter stamps as well as a handwritten list of crossed-out Priority Mail tracking numbers.  Law enforcement also imaged Matheny’s electronic devices and, on his computer, found a number of the unaltered electronic versions of the forged postage meter stamps in question.  Later, working with representatives of eBay, law enforcement learned that Matheny was taking advantage of vulnerabilities in the USPS’s electronic postage payment systems to receive Priority Mail treatment for his packages even though he had only paid the First Class rate.  At Matheny’s sentencing, a USPIS inspector testified that the face value of the counterfeited and forged postage that Matheny manufactured between 2013 and 2017 exceeded $380,000.

Some of Matheny’s customers lived overseas, including in Russia, Israel, New Zealand, and South Africa.  The USPS required Matheny to make truthful declarations on these exports to other countries.  Specifically, Matheny was required to truthfully declare whether the package contained merchandise or a gift and also the value of the contents of the package.  Matheny falsely certified on these forms that his packages each contained a “gift” that was worth a nominal sum such as “$1.90,” when in truth Matheny knew the contents of his packages were not gifts and worth more than what he listed on the forms.  This allowed Matheny’s packages to clear foreign customs more rapidly and possibly avoid foreign customs taxes.

Matheny was sentenced in Cedar Rapids by United States District Court Judge C.J. Williams.  Matheny was sentenced to 36 months’ imprisonment and fined $10,000.  He was also ordered to make $256,441.78 in restitution to the USPS.  He must also serve a three-year term of supervised release after the prison term.  There is no parole in the federal system.

Matheny was released on the bond previously set and is to surrender to the Bureau of Prisons on a date yet to be set.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Timothy L. Vavricek and investigated by the United States Postal Inspection Service.