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    The Moab Post Office put one staff member on leave amidst an investigation into alleged mail theft. Photo by Doug McMurdo

    The United States Postal Service placed a city mail carrier with the Moab Post Office on “non-duty status” on Thursday, Sept. 5 after the employee became a subject in a mail theft investigation that began seven months earlier.

    The employee is a “person of interest” in the office’s ongoing mail theft probe, according Jeffrey Krafels, a spokesperson for the Inspector General of the Postal Service. Krafels noted that the person is “presumed innocent unless otherwise adjudicated by a court of law.”

    The investigation began in March, according to Krafels, just before The Times-Independent reported in April about multiple complaints from locals who did not receive mail sent through the Postal Service or people to whom they sent mail did not receive the package or letter.

    “The USPS OIG considers the aforementioned allegations to be a very serious matter,” Krafels said in a statement. “When these types of allegations are made, USPS OIG special agents vigorously investigate these matters, as we did in this instance.”

    How the investigation opened

    The saga leading up to last week’s personnel change began in early April, when local doctor Michael Quinn wrote a letter to The Times-Independent editor published with the title, “Sticky fingers at Moab Post Office?” In the article, Quinn said that a number of parcels that he had recently mailed via the Postal Service never reached their intended destination.

    Quinn began his letter, “The intents of this letter are twofold: To warn the citizens of Moab that they can no longer trust in the integrity of their U.S. Post Office and to encourage the U.S. Post Office employees to amend what appears to be an internal mail theft problem.”

    In response to his letter, The Times-Independent reached out to spokespeople for the U.S. Postal Service. One said in a written statement that the service was “unaware of any systemic mail issues in Moab,” although the Postal Service did ask Quinn “for specifics so we can properly explore his concerns.”

    At the time, David Rupert, acting manager of USPS’ western area corporate communications, said that he was aware of the letter published by The T-I and that “nothing criminal” was going on with mail delivery in Moab.

    A number of T-I readers reached out to share their own stories of alleged mail theft, some saying that the Postal Service was untrustworthy and that the problem of missing mail was unique to Moab and had been going on for years.

    In response to that article, Krafels, from the Inspector General, reached out to The T-I for help contacting the persons who publicly shared their stories of missing mail. Many of those people consented when the newspaper asked whether they wanted to have their contact information forwarded to investigators.

    Now, the Moab Post Office has asked an employee, a person of interest in the mail theft investigation, to stop coming into work. Krafels said he could not comment on whether the employee’s leave was paid or unpaid, as it is a personnel issue; no charges have been filed in the case.

    Multiple investigations prior

    This is not the first time that an employee of the Moab Post Office has caught the close eye of investigators. A 2012 investigation by the Postal Service inspector general led to the firing and, eventually, jailing of a Moab mail clerk.

    Following the 2012 investigation, the inspector general opened cases again in 2013, 2015, 2017 and most recently this year. Should Grand County, following the investigation, file charges against the employee, it would be the first investigation since 2012 to be resolved.

    Investigators opened the 2012 case in May of that year, after a customer alleged that he did not receive packages sent through the Postal Service and that he received some packages that were opened. Soon after the Inspector General’s office received the complaint, investigators found that numerous other complaints in Moab had been levied in years prior.

    According to investigators, there were 191 customer-reported issues with mail delivery in Moab in the 2.5 years prior to the start of the 2012 investigation. During that timespan, locals reported an average of nearly two complaints every week.

    Investigators interviewed the mail clerk in September 2012, and the Grand County Attorney filed charges against her four months later, in January 2013.

    Krafels, a spokesperson for the Inspector General, said that the bulk of the Postal Service’s work does not yield mail theft and that the service does not tolerate criminal behavior.

    “The U.S. Postal Service employs more than 625,113 employees and is the largest civilian federal workforce in the country,” Krafels said. “This type of alleged behavior within the Postal Service is not tolerated, and the overwhelming majority of Postal Service employees, who serve the public, are honest, hardworking, and trustworthy individuals who would never consider engaging in any type of criminal behavior.”

    This story was updated to include an additional quote from Krafels.

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