Former Georgia postal worker pleads guilty to scheme to deliver drugs through the mail

ATLANTA – Former mail carrier Robert Elliott Sheppard has pleaded guilty to drug trafficking charges for recruiting fellow mail carriers to deliver packages of controlled substances while he was on disability leave.

“Postal carriers occupy a position of trust in our communities and Sheppard violated that trust by exploiting his role as a mail carrier to traffic kilogram amounts of cocaine as well as marijuana,” said U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Buchanan. “Sheppard’s conduct is especially egregious because he recruited other postal carriers to participate in his criminal scheme once he was on disability leave. His conduct and greed potentially exposed countless innocent postal workers and the public to dangerous drugs and to the violence that these crimes frequently cause.”

“Sheppard’s greed taints the public’s trust in U.S. Postal Service employees, the majority of whom are hard-working and trustworthy individuals dedicated to delivering mail safely throughout our communities,” said Keri Farley, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. “The FBI wants it to be clear that public corruption remains our number one criminal program priority and, as such, we have dedicated significant resources toward the identification, investigation, and prosecution of any individuals involved in similar such conduct.”

“We appreciate the outstanding effort by both the investigative and legal teams,” said Special Agent in Charge Scott Pierce, USPS Office of Inspector General, Southern Area Field Office. “The vast majority of Postal Service employees are honest, hardworking individuals who would never dream of violating the public trust in this manner. An employee who decides otherwise, however, will be aggressively investigated by OIG special agents. This case serves as an excellent example of the successful collaboration between the USPS OIG, our federal and state law enforcement partners, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office to pursue and prosecute Postal Service employees involved in criminal activity.”

“Sheppard enlisted the help of two co-workers to smuggle drugs through the United States Postal system, entangling them in a drug conspiracy and furthering dangerous criminal activity. They have been brought to justice. It is now Sheppard’s time to be held accountable for his selfish actions. The DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office will continue to work with its law enforcement partners to ensure public officials like Sheppard will be brought to justice,” said DeKalb County District Attorney Sherry Boston.

According to U.S. Attorney Buchanan, the charges and other information presented in court: In 2014, Sheppard worked as a U.S Postal Service (USPS) mail carrier. In exchange for bribes, he used his position to deliver five-pound packages of drugs through the U.S. mails to Dexter Frazier, a local drug trafficker who sold cocaine and marijuana.

In 2016, Frazier approached Sheppard about delivering additional drug packages. Sheppard was on disability leave from the USPS at that time and unable to intercept and deliver packages. So Sheppard offered to recruit other mail carriers to deliver drugs for Frazier if Frazier paid Sheppard referral fees consisting of a mix of cash and marijuana. Frazier agreed.

Sheppard then contacted two coworkers, Tonie Harris and Clifton Lee. Sheppard explained to Harris and Lee that in exchange for payment, Frazier needed them to deliver packages of drugs. Sheppard instructed Harris and Lee how to arrange the deliveries to avoid detection. Harris and Lee agreed to participate in the scheme after which Sheppard gave their phone numbers to Frazier. Frazier then coordinated the illegal deliveries with Harris and Lee. Harris and Lee each delivered three packages for Frazier believing they contained two kilograms of cocaine or 10 pounds of marijuana.

Robert Elliott Sheppard, 60, of East Point, Ga., has pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine and marijuana and unlawfully using the mail to commit that crime. Sentencing for Sheppard is scheduled for November 3, 2022.

Other participants in the scheme previously pleaded guilty and received the following sentences imposed by U.S. District Judge Steve C. Jones:

  • Dexter Bernard Frazier, a/k/a “Dec,” 60, of Fairburn, Georgia, was sentenced on June 13, 2018, to nine years in prison to be followed by 10 years of supervised release. He was also ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $10,700. Frazier pleaded guilty to the offense of attempt to distribute cocaine and marijuana on March 6, 2018.
  • Clifton Curtis Lee, a/k/a “Cliff,” 46, of Lithonia, Georgia, a letter carrier assigned to the Sandy Springs Post Office, was sentenced on June 18, 2018, to three years, 10 months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release. He was also ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $1,800. Lee pleaded guilty to the offenses of attempt to distribute cocaine and bribery of public officials on February 28, 2018.
  • Tonie Harris, 59, of Decatur, Georgia, a letter carrier assigned to the Sandy Springs Post Office, was sentenced on August 14, 2018, to three years, one month in prison to be followed by four years of supervised release. He was also ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $1,450.  Harris pleaded guilty to the offenses of attempt to distribute cocaine and marijuana and bribery of public officials on March 20, 2018.

This case is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General, and the DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Garrett L. Bradford, Deputy Chief of the Public Integrity and Special Matters Section, is prosecuting the case.