‘No comment’: USPS postmasters won’t respond to mail theft problems
CBS46 investigates issues of missing mail and check washing at a metro Atlanta post office. Why won’t those in charge talk about it?
DULUTH, Ga. (CBS46) - More than a dozen people have filed mail-related reports with Duluth Police over the last three months. That includes reports of check washing and missing mail.
As part of an ongoing series, CBS46 investigative reporter Rachel Polansky went to the Postal Inspection Service looking for answers but what she found was little explanation from those in charge.
“Taxpayers support the postal service. Your agency works under the federal government,” Polansky said to Greater Atlanta postmaster, Falonda Woods. “Again, I don’t have any responses for that,” Falonda Woods responded.
While Eunice Biddy was attending physical rehab at Northside Duluth, her daughter Angie Ezeh was helping her with chores like paying her bills.
“They needed to be mailed so I was like well I’m passing right by the post office, I’ll just stop and drop them off so I don’t have to worry about forgetting tomorrow. Well, that ended up being a big mistake,” Angie Ezeh told CBS46.
Ezeh dropped the checks inside a blue box, right outside the Duluth Post Office on McClure Bridge Road.
Both checks were altered - the payee and the amounts were changed. A $73 check was re-written to $2,000. A $24 check changed to $1,165. Both were cashed.
“It felt really bold to me,” Ezeh said.
It’s called ‘check washing’ and it happens when thieves swipe checks - erase details, usually with cleaning products - and re-write them. Duluth Public Information Officer Ted Sadowski is quite familiar with this type of fraud.
“They wash it, put someone else’s name on it and cash it,” Officer Sadowski said.
His best advice? “We recommend using Venmo or some kind of cash app. Also, pay bills online. That would probably be the best thing to do,” Officer Sadowski explained.
History of Problems
Problems have been plaguing the Duluth Post Office for quite some time. In 2020, a former postal worker plead guilty to stealing gift cards and cash addressed to at least 15 Duluth residents.
Last month, a master key that services mailboxes in two Duluth zip codes was stolen from a postal worker.
In January, Pamela Erzah-Kampouri filed a police report with Duluth after her passport and visa were stolen from an envelope which she sent priority and dropped off inside the Duluth Post Office – trying to renew her travel documents.
“I pay for express, express mail, with insurance, everything,” Erzah-Kampouri told Polansky.
Five days later, she got an email from the Cypress Embassy in D.C. telling her they got “an empty, ripped envelope” and advised her to contact the post office and the police.
“I’m thinking I can’t trust anymore the post office,” Erzah-Kampouri added. “That is the last time. I’m not gonna send nothing via the post office.”
No Police Jurisdiction
CBS46 Investigates took all of our findings to Duluth Police and that’s when we learned that they’re frustrated too.
“We’re posed into a weird position between jurisdictions. The Duluth Police Department doesn’t have any jurisdiction to investigate a possible crime on the post office property, so when we get mail theft reports, we send it to the post office and their postal inspectors will do the investigation” said Duluth Public Information Officer, Ted Sadowski. “We share the victims frustration in this.”
He’s right. The Postal Inspection Service or USPIS is the agency that handles crimes that involve the mail. Spokesperson Kemie Green denied our repeated requests for an interview but sent CBS46 Investigates this statement:
A previous CBS46 investigation uncovered that mail-related complaints are rarely investigated. Of the 299,020 complaints the U.S. Postal Inspection Service received the first year of the pandemic, less than 0.5-percent of them or 1,090 resulted in mail theft investigations. These are the most updated numbers that the agency has put out.
If you believe your mail was stolen USPIS says you should report it to them by calling their hotline at 877-876-2455 or visiting their website.
CBS46 Investigates asked USPIS multiple times for an interview with Duluth postmaster Charly Nicius or the Greater Atlanta postmaster Falonda Woods. After we were repeatedly denied or ignored, Polansky stopped by the Duluth Post Office looking for answers.
“Is Charly Nicius available? Residents have been complaining about check washing, missing mail, stolen mail,” Polansky said to a mail clerk.
Nicius wasn’t there either of the times Polansky visited.
“Does he ever come to work?” Polansky asked.
“He’s got multiple offices so its hard to catch him,” the clerk responded.
So, Polansky visited Greater Atlanta postmaster Falonda Woods at headquarters.
“I’ve been trying to get in touch with you for quite some time to talk about the problems at the Duluth post office,” Polansky said as she approached Woods.
“Ma’am, I have no comments about that,” Woods said.
Woods would not answer our questions.
“Taxpayers support the postal service. Your agency works under the federal government,” Polansky said.
“Again, I don’t have any responses for that,” Woods added, telling Polansky to call the press office.
“We’ve asked several times for an in-person interview with you and they’ve ignored us,” Polansky said.
“Well then I can’t give you an interview now,” Woods said. “Duluth Post Office is not under my purview. My purview is Atlanta.”
The day after our visit to Metro Atlanta Postal Headquarters, CBS46 Investigates received an email from USPS leadership.
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