ORLANDO, FLA. — The U.S. Postal Service used NPE 2015 to communicate its “Got It. Return It” message to plastics recyclers and processors.
The prevention and education effort targets those using stolen USPS mail transport equipment, said Martha Carrillo, a postal inspector in San Bernardino, Calif. Penalties up to three years in jail and a fine await those convicted of the federal crime of theft or misuse of USPS equipment such as black-and-orange high density polyethylene pallets, along with letter trays and mail tubs.
In a successful New York prosecution, postal motor vehicle driver Destin Lee was sentenced Jan. 16 to 30 months in prison
for stealing about 40,000 plastic pallets worth an estimated $1.7 million. A recycler became a
The unidentified recycler bought the USPS-branded pallets at $1 each in cash and regularly hauled away truckloads from restricted areas of the Westchester postal processing and distribution center in White Plains, N.Y. The thefts occurred from late 2011 until Oct. 21, 2013, and were recounted in an October jury trial.
Judge Vincent Briccetti imposed the sentence in U.S. District Court in New York, said Zato Hoti, a postal inspector. In addition to the jail time, Briccetti ordered Lee to make restitution of $400,000 after his release from prison and submit to two years of supervised probation. Lee is free pending appeal of the sentence.
Carrillo became involved with the pilferage problem as a USPS representative on the plastic industrial theft task force of the Los Angeles County sheriff's department.
From September 2011 through July 2013, the task force recovered intact and granulated stolen trademarked plastic products with a value of more than $7.4 million. The task force conducted dozens of investigations in southern California, made 74 arrests, shut down 30 illegal polymer storage and granulation sites and returned intact products to victimized businesses including the U.S. Postal Service.
City of Industry, Calif., spent about $1.5 million in funding the task force. But efforts to continue the program were unsuccessful despite appeals to numerous government agencies, and the task force was disbanded.
Postal inspectors continue to investigate multiple leads, Carrillo said in an interview at the USPS booth at NPE 2015.
In one suspected theft case, inspectors found more than 44,000 pounds of resin pellets in gaylord sacks in a Compton, Calif., facility. “That was two days' production” for the recycler, Carrillo said. The operator would hide stolen pallets behind other pallets in a storage yard, she said. The probe is ongoing.
A USPS hotline at 866-338-3404 accepts reports about unauthorized use of mail transport equipment.