Austin USPS contract employee fired, investigated for stealing gift cards

Damaged USPS mail (Courtesy/Valerie Francis)
Damaged USPS mail (Courtesy/Valerie Francis)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A six-month long mail theft investigation, first brought to KXAN’s attention in January, is about to be handed over to the Travis County District Attorney’s Office.

U.S. Postal Inspector Mike Sullivan says a United States Postal Service contract employee was fired on May 10 after he was caught stealing hundreds of dollars in gift cards he was supposed to be helping deliver in Austin.

“It’s rare, but do employees know what’s in those envelopes? You bet they do,” said Sullivan. “They deliver hundreds of gift cards and credit cards every day.”

The employee, who has not been charged, transported mail in an 18-wheeler from the main Austin distribution site to post offices in south Austin. The alleged crimes date back to Christmas time. That’s when Valerie Francis, who lives in the Dallas area, first reached out to KXAN.

“If it hadn’t been for you giving me who to contact directly I don’t know how I would’ve gotten to the correct office, the office of Inspector General,” said Francis.

She showed the OIG the evidence — a Priority Mail envelope she sent to her brother in Austin that arrived in his mailbox torn open at the top, and empty.

“My investigator said they were able to track my card by the number that I had retained when I purchased it,” said Francis. “They tracked my card back to a Champs, you know like a Foot Locker store in the mall, and somebody went in and bought some tennis shoes with my card.”

Sullivan says USPS investigators have store surveillance video of people using the stolen cards who are friends of the employee. They are still interviewing people who used the gift cards to try and figure out if they knew the cards were stolen.

Francis has yet to see the $100 she spent on her brother for Christmas.

“The guy has been let go, and to me that was really the goal,” said Francis. “That it not happen to anybody else.”

According to Sullivan, the USPS uses a lot of contractors to deliver mail year-round, and those employees undergo the same vetting process and background checks as someone directly working for the post office.

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