WSAZ Investigates | Signed, Sealed and Stashed Away
Thousands of pieces of mail recovered at multiple locations
SOUTH POINT, Ohio (WSAZ) - When you’re expecting an important document or package to arrive in the mail, each day that passes while you’re waiting can seem much longer.
For some people in southern Ohio, that wait has lasted several years.
“This has been really trying for me,” said Robin Combs. “Trying to get everything taken care of and then to have this happen, it’s just heartbreaking.”
After more than 30 years of marriage, Combs lost her husband almost two years ago. She says she’s been trying to navigate life now as a widow, but felt a significant setback when she opened her mailbox last month and found letters that were mailed to her husband a year before he died had been delivered.
“My husband had found this on the internet, unclaimed funds,” Combs said. “Filled out the form, didn’t think anything of it. Then he got sick. Now, all of a sudden, it pops up and it pops up open.”
Several South Point residents who also received damaged and outdated mail reached out to WSAZ to get some answers on how this could happen and why all of this mail is turning up now. Some of them received a letter from the postmaster.
The letter reads in part: “Please know the Postal Service considers this a very serious issue.”
We reached out to the U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General. Special Agent Scott Balfour sent us the following statement:
“In April 2019, special agents with the U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General (USPS OIG) received a tip that there was a large amount of undelivered mail at a postal employee’s residence. During the investigation, USPS OIG special agents recovered about 46,000 pieces of U.S. mail from several locations in South Point. The individual responsible is no longer employed by the U.S. Postal Service. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Columbus, OH has accepted the case for federal prosecution. It is my understanding that all of the recovered mail should have been delivered. Individuals negatively impacted by the delay can file a claim at www.usps.com or call 1-800-275-8777. Depending on the situation, USPS consumer affairs can provide a letter to the customer that could possibly forgive any late fees. I also suggest contacting the sender of the delayed mail.”
A few days later, he sent a follow-up statement:
“The vast majority of the Postal Service’s 630,000 employees are hard-working, trustworthy individuals who work around the clock to deliver the nation’s mail. However, when one of those individuals chooses to violate that trust, special agents with the U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General (USPS OIG) will vigorously investigate serious allegations, and seek the individual’s prosecution and termination if appropriate. To report crimes committed by Postal Service employees, contact USPS OIG special agents at www.uspsoig.gov or 888-USPS-OIG.”
Beverly Edmonds was missing a priceless family accomplishment that never arrived.
“This is a certificate from Harvard for my son, three years ago,” Edmonds said. “We just got this from the principal, he brought it over last week and dropped it off to me. It was lost in the mail.”
Her son, now a junior in college, is finally getting the recognition of his work in high school -- several years too late. Edmonds said she also received old mail that had been tampered with.
“I’ve made several complaints to the post office and even the police because my mail was being opened,” Edmonds said. “Letters would be outside of the envelope. A lot of it was from Social Security, which has my number on it. I complained to Social Security, too.”
The women say they’re concerned about who may have had access to their personal information.
“I don’t know who had access to my private data,” Combs said.
According to the 2019 annual report of the United States Postal Inspection Service, a separate federal law enforcement agency not involved in this case, they opened investigations into nearly 1,300 cases of mail theft. That resulted in more than 2,000 arrests and convictions in nearly every case.
“There are more people out there that want these answers. We have discussed it on Facebook in an open forum.”
We reached out to the State’s Attorney’s Office in Columbus for an update on this case and have not heard back.
Some of the residents say this situation has left them with doubts each and every time they open their mailbox, both when sending and receiving their mail.
“My brother lives in Paducah, Kentucky,” Combs said. “I was getting ready to send something to him that was our father’s. It’s packaged and I said ‘no, I’ll wait till I see you again.‘”
These women hope the investigation will deliver their village justice and a promise to take better care of their valuable information.
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