If you live in north Scottsdale or Fountain Hills and were missing mail last spring, we have a possible explanation: Your postman's a thief.
The U.S. Postal Service's Office of Inspector General caught the naughty carrier in the act back in May with the use of a bait letter stuffed with cash. On Tuesday, he was convicted in Arizona U.S. District Court following a guilty plea to a count of "theft of mail matter by a postal employee," a federal felony offense.
Investigators opened the case into carrier Anthony Michael Lump on April 30 following complaints from customers about missing mail on the route, said Jeff Krafels, an OIG supervisor said after Phoenix New Times inquired about the case.
Lump's route, which borders on rugged Sonoran preserve land, is considered rural by the postal service. But this isn't Green Acres: The area boasts some of the Valley's most expensive homes.
On May 9, OIG investigators left a piece of bait mail in a mailbox on East Wethersfield Road in Scottsdale, about three miles east of Taliesin West.
"After stealing the letter and removing bait money from within, the defendant knowingly discarded the letter and its remaining contents, which included an electronic tracking device that was the property of USPS-OIG and valued at $1,200," according to Lump's September 25 plea agreement.
Lump was taken into custody, where he remained until being released on his own recognizance after a hearing in federal court on Tuesday.
The postal service determined that Lump stole mail from at least nine homes. Yet the the known total dollar loss is so far placed at just $25. Perhaps the pickings weren't as good as Lump thought they'd be in the exclusive neighborhood.
Lump's LinkedIn page shows he's been a mail carrier in that area for more than three years.
He was no longer employed as of May 9, the same day he was stopped with the bait money, Krafels said.
Krafels, the deputy special agent in charge for the OIG in Denver, added that actual losses and estimated number of mailboxes Lump pilfered isn't known.
"Obviously the possibility is that it's higher," he said.
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Mail theft customers often contact the company that sent a package if they feel they've missed it, he said.
The postal service has suffered from a rash of thefts by employees in recent weeks, including an ongoing probe in Englewood, Colorado, and a high-profile case in Milwaukee reported last week involving 6,000 pieces of mail.
Krafels noted that the U.S. Postal Service has more than 503,103 employees and the "overwhelming majority" of them are "honest, hardworking, and trustworthy individuals."
According to court records, Lump's plea deal calls for a sentence of no more than three years of probation, plus repayment of $1,225 to the government. He's scheduled to be sentenced on December 17 by U.S. District Judge Douglas Rayes.