Postman Allegedly Stole 20,000 Pieces of Mail Over 20 Years

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Hate dealing with mail? Live in Catonsville, a western suburb of Baltimore? Jeffrey L. Shipley, a 20-year mail carrier, felt your pain and tried to lighten it. According to federal authorities, Shipley stole 20,000 pieces of mail during his career, as the Baltimore Sun reported.

Prosecutors said that he "failed to deliver, embezzled and stole" not just junk mail, but letters, cards, magazines, and Netflix videos. (Good thing the company doesn't charge late fees.) He faces a count of mail theft and delaying the mail for each piece. According to Cornell University Law School's Legal Information Institute, a person can face a fine and/or up to five years imprisonment for a single count. That doesn't take into account any separate state charges.

This isn't the only trouble the state has had with mail thefts. There's been a recent jump in thefts of outgoing mail from homes in Montgomery County, as WRC-TV reported. Thieves look to take checks and convert them to cash.

Catonsville is in Baltimore County and Shipley's alleged crimes aren't just recent. He would have had to steal an average of 1,000 pieces of mail, or almost three pieces a day from his route, to accumulate the total he supposedly had taken since he started working for the U.S. Postal Service in 1993.

Much of what he is charged with having taken could have had significant value. Missing items included checks, jewelry, DVDs, gift cards, and passports, according to the Sun. The top union pay rate for carriers is $58,000 a year.

When it comes to mail theft, others have been grander in their activity. In April, William Morse of Dawson Springs, KY was sentenced to six months in prison and another six months in home detention, as well as $14,808 in restitution for allegedly stealing 44,900 pieces of mail, according to USA Today.

The investigation started in February based on an anonymous telephone tip. In addition, a confidential informant reportedly "had seen large quantities of opened and unopened U.S. Mail not addressed to Shipley" and provided pictures and 23 pieces of the mail not addressed to Shipley, according to a report from Special Agent Steven M. Mason of the Postal Service Inspector General's office. The list of allegedly stolen items ran nine pages.

A cached version of Shipley's own web page suggests that he was an unhappy man:

Growing up, I was certain that I'd be an artist...

I was good, but I didn't apply my talent. Eventually I found myself with two children whom I
adored, and a job I despised. My creative nature was left unfulfilled...


Shipley went on to write short stories that were published in small horror publications and also created his own venture, Unpopular Publications. He even gave talks to other writers.
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