A Wisconsin postal worker was fired after she confessed to stealing over 6,000 greeting cards filled with cash and checks during her routes in Wauwatosa, pocketing the funds to make ends meet.
Under a plea deal, Ebony Lavonne Smith, a mother of four, pleaded guilty to theft or receipt of stolen mail on Wednesday, Sept.12, the Journal Sentinel reported.
The U.S. Postal Service knew something was awry last summer when Wauwatosa residents complained they weren’t receiving graduation, birthday, wedding or sympathy cards in the ZIP codes 53213 and 53226. Court records showed Smith was the mail carrier in those areas and on March 18, 2017, was assigned to deliver mail in Wauwatosa.
The agency caught the mother red-handed after prepping a test greeting card and a $20 bill for delivery in the Wauwatosa area. Little did Smith know that the envelope contained a transmitter that signaled when it was opened.
During their investigation, a USPS supervisor noticed Smith rummaging through trays assigned to other delivery routes, during which she took greeting cards and placed them in in her own tray. Among the stolen items was the blue test envelope, which Smith took with her to her assigned postal vehicle.
According to the Journal Sentinel report, “Smith began delivering the mail and when she arrived at the address of the test greeting card, the transmitter activated, signaling that the envelope had been opened. At this time, postal agents approached Smith, who was standing outside of her car.”
Agents located the opened envelope to find the $20 bill missing, the newspaper reported. Smith retrieved her purse from her car and handed over the bill, which she had tucked in the side pocket of her bag. Agents also recovered a roll of tape and a letter opener in her USPS vehicle.
Strapped for cash, the young mother told authorities she started stealing mail approximately one or two days per week, using the money to pay her bills and feed her four children. She said at first she expected to steal no more than $40 a week from customer mail but that quickly grew to $50 to $100 per week.
She also admitted to using tape to reseal some of the cards she’d opened, court documents revealed.
Moreover, a review of the First Class mail recovered from inside a towed car belonging to Smith “revealed there were 6,625 First Class greeting card envelopes and 540 personal checks, some within their greeting card with envelopes, and 45 unopened greeting cards,” the Journal Sentinel reported. The postmarks on the cards ranged from March 3, 2017 to Jan. 13, 2018.
It’s unclear how much money was stolen or if the recipients ever had their letters returned.
Smith is expected to be sentenced at a later date.