How To Catch a Thief . . . Postal Style
U.S. v. Gonzales, 05-1313 (10th Cir., Aug. 7, 2006)
This case shows that the good folks over at the USPS are looking out for us. Because some mail carriers would prefer to pocket your mail rather than deliver it, postal inspectors conduct random stings to try to catch wayward employees.
Defendant Juanita Gonzales was a mail carrier who loved movies. So much so that she opened an undeliverable letter promising two free movie tickets in exchange for filling out a survey. When Gonzales submitted the survey, inspectors targeted her for further stings. She proceeded to pass up a free disposable camera and a "special gift" from a charity. Undeterred by her sudden bout of honesty, the inspectors tried the old movie ticket trick again, and Gonzales finally took the bait. Unfortunately for her, the tickets were accompanied by a beeper that set off an alarm when she opened the letter.
Gonzales was convicted of two counts of embezzling mail. On appeal, she took issue with the jury instructions, arguing that the government needed to show that she intended to keep the tickets. The Tenth Circuit disagrees, explaining that the crime is complete when the mail carrier removes the letter from the envelope. Thus, Gonzales’ conviction is affirmed, and she’ll serve three years of probation