Apr. 7, 2023 By Carlotta Mohamed
Following a rise in stolen checks from neighborhood post offices and mailboxes, U.S. Reps. Grace Meng (D-Queens) and Nicole Malliotakis (R-Staten Island/Brooklyn) announced on April 6 that they have introduced bipartisan legislation to enhance the U.S. Postal Service’s (USPS) ability to crack down on postal crime.
The USPS Subpoena Authority Act would strengthen the agency’s ability to crack down on criminal organizations driving mail theft through administrative subpoenas. With these subpoenas, USPS could collect more information related to the financial fraud associated with mail theft, including bank records and surveillance videos, to build mail theft cases against criminal organizations that meet prosecutorial thresholds.
According to Meng, she has heard from many constituents who have been victims of despicable mail crimes that have resulted in them losing their hard-earned money and increasing their chances of identity theft, bad credit scores and other negative impacts.
“Congress must ensure that the Postal Service has all the resources it needs to stop thieves from stealing mail, and this legislation to give USPS the power to more effectively go after organized mail theft syndicates would be another crucial tool for the agency to use in addressing the problem,” said Meng, who thanked Malliotakis for partnering with her on the effort.
Malliotakis said mail theft and check fraud violate an individual’s privacy and security and threaten the integrity of the financial and postal systems as a whole.
“By giving USPS the tools and resources necessary to quickly gather information and prosecute the criminal organizations responsible, we help to protect the financial well-being of our constituents and send a clear message that this type of criminal behavior will no longer be tolerated,” Malliotakis said.
Catherine Venis, a Queens resident who has been the victim of mail theft, said, “all possible tools should be at the Postal Service’s disposal.”
According to a February 2023 alert from the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, an arm of the U.S. Department of the Treasury, reports of check fraud filed by banks nearly doubled to 680,000 from 350,000 in 2021. The U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) said it received more than 299,000 complaints of mail theft from March 2020 through February 2021, a 161% increase compared with the same period a year earlier.
Mail theft and check fraud cases have also increased in New York.
In September 2022, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York and USPIS arrested nine individuals, some of whom were postal employees, in connection with a years-long $1.3 million scheme to steal credit cards from the mail and use them to defraud several national financial institutions, credit card companies and major retailers.
In January, State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez and USPIS announced the arrest of Gennady Galker, an identity thief who stole more than $30,000 in checks from Brooklynites, including the Office of Unclaimed Funds and the Jewish Communal Fund. Galker’s arrest coincided with the sentencing of a former East Flatbush postal worker who was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison for stealing $4 million in blank money orders from the Rugby Post Office on Utica Avenue.