Intelligence informs our every move.
Our wide jurisdiction and extensive experience inform our innovative investigative techniques. Read more to learn how we do our work.
Enforcing Federal Statutes
If it has anything to do with preserving the safety, security, and integrity of the nation’s mail system from criminal misuse, we do it. Our Postal Inspectors are federal law enforcement officers who carry firearms, make arrests, execute federal search warrants, and serve subpoenas. Over 1200 Inspectors enforce roughly 200 federal laws covering crimes that include fraudulent use of the U.S. Mail® and the postal system.Learn More About What We Do
Investigating Postal Crimes
Postal Inspectors investigate any crime with a nexus to the mail. These crimes include mail theft, mail fraud, financial fraud, identity theft, robberies and burglaries of postal facilities, assaults and threats on postal employees, investigations of dangerous and prohibited mails, narcotics, cybercrime and much more.
Once an investigation is underway, Postal Inspectors present the case to prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s Office and local prosecutors. Throughout the prosecution, Postal Inspectors and other Postal Inspection Service employees can be called to provide testimony and explain their findings, process, and conclusions.
The Ponzi Scheme
Charles Ponzi is the namesake for the ubiquitous Ponzi scheme. He realized that based upon post-war exchange rates, International Reply Coupons purchased in many European nations were worth more in the United States than their original cost. Ponzi figured that if he could work out a way to deal the coupons in a high quantity, he could become rich by simply buying and reselling them. Ponzi convinced a few investors to give him start-up money, promising them a 50% profit in 45 days. This was the beginning of the pyramid scheme that bears Ponzi’s name to this day. Other famous scammers who utilized this scheme include Bernard Madoff and R. Allen Stanford. Postal Inspectors were integral to investigating all three Ponzi scheme perpetrators.
Responding to Disasters
The Postal Inspection Service responds to emergencies, natural or man-made. Because mail is a vital utility like water or electricity, restoring mail service is essential to maintaining a sense of normalcy after a disaster. Postal Inspectors and Postal Police Officers respond to disasters by making sure postal employees are accounted for, securing damaged postal facilities and equipment, and assisting the Postal Service with temporary mail distribution plans.
In the rare case of a suspicious package, specially trained Postal Inspectors are deployed to secure the package and protect mail facilities, employees, and customers. Investigations of suspicious mail are unusual and complex cases. Postal Inspectors tirelessly investigate such crimes until the cases are closed.
Prior to Hurricane Irma’s arrival, Postal Inspectors and Postal Police Officers responded to safeguard U.S. Postal Service® employees, protect the mail, provide security guidance to postal managers, and ensure that infrastructures were secure and operational. In the aftermath of the storm, the Postal Inspection Service helped reestablish mail service and restore a sense of normalcy throughout the affected areas.
The Postal Inspection Service is one of the few federal law enforcement agencies that promotes crime prevention. An important element of the Postal Inspection Service’s crime prevention efforts is informing and educating consumers, especially older Americans, about mail fraud. Postal Inspectors have found that educating people through fraud prevention campaigns and the media is the best way to prevent them from being scammed.
The security part of the Postal Inspection Service’s mission means ensuring postal employees, customers, and over 32,000 postal facilities are safe from criminal attack. Our security force of armed, uniformed Postal Police® Officers is assigned to provide physical security and protect critical postal facilities. Our security specialists analyze risks at postal facilities and implement solutions to minimize risks to employees and facilities. Additionally, Postal Inspectors provide enhanced security for mail services at major political, cultural, and sporting events.
High-value deliveries often require the special skills of the Postal Inspection Service. From planning to overseeing security, the Postal Inspection Service has ensured the safe delivery of moving all the nation’s gold to Fort Knox and the Hope Diamond to the Smithsonian.
Collecting and Analyzing Evidence
The Postal Inspection Service maintains a world-class crime laboratory where forensic scientists conduct examinations on questioned documents; analyze fingerprints, narcotics and physical evidence; and provide digital evidence support. Postal Inspectors often rely on the expertise of forensic analysts stationed at the National Forensic Laboratory Services to solve mail-related crimes. These highly skilled forensic scientists, forensic chemists, latent print analysts, and forensic computer analysts play a key role in identifying, apprehending, prosecuting, and convicting individuals responsible for mail-related crimes.
Illegal Drugs in the Mail
In light of the nation’s opioid epidemic, the Postal Inspection Service is strengthening its efforts to identify mailings containing fentanyl and other synthetic opioids. We continue working with our law enforcement partners to disrupt and dismantle drug trafficking organizations that sell these deadly drugs. Our methods helped lead to 1,624 convictions for prohibited narcotics in fiscal year 2018.
210 Years in Prison
On June 29, 2017, Justin Larson of Damascus, MD, was sentenced to life in prison without parole for negligent homicide charges associated with the distribution of acetyl fentanyl and furanyl fentanyl. He was also sentenced to 210 years to run consecutively for additional charges. The case began when Postal Inspectors intercepted a parcel containing 255 grams of the deadly drug acetyl fentanyl. After an extensive investigation, Larson was charged with and convicted of eight counts of possession with intent to distribute controlled substances and analogues, conspiracy, and negligent homicide.
Partnering Against Crime
Postal Inspectors partner with other federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, as well as foreign agencies to investigate mail-related crimes. These partnerships and task forces have helped Postal Inspectors dismantle drug and human trafficking networks, extradite foreign criminals, and prevent possible acts of terrorism.
From 1978 to 1996, Ted Kaczynski mounted a campaign of terror through a series of bombs sent in the mail to university professors and airline and advertising executives. He used the mail to deliver nine of his 16 known devices. Postal Inspectors and agents from the FBI and the ATF created the UNABOM Task Force (a combination of the words “university” and “airline bomber”). The press created the name Unabomber from that original task force designation.
In 1995, while still on the loose, and through anonymous letters, the Unabomber demanded the publication of what became known as the “Unabomber Manifesto” in exchange for an end to the violence. The New York Times and Washington Post published the diatribe against technological advancement on September 19, 1995. David Kaczynski recognized his brother Ted’s writing style and notified authorities. Postal Inspectors and other agents surrounded a tiny cabin in Montana, arresting Kaczynski on April 3, 1996. Among the items found in the cabin was a completed bomb ready to be mailed.
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