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Articles Posted in Theft Crimes

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graphics-882726_640-300x207Within the same week in mid-May two former government employees in Maryland were found guilty of felony theft while on the job.  The first guilty finding came by way of a two-day jury trial in Somerset County that resulted in a guilty verdict for both counts in the criminal information charging document.  A jury agreed with the State’s Attorney’s theory that the former of Princess Anne employee was responsible for $100,748.93 in missing cash that was received at Town Hall but never deposited into the town’s operating account.  Prosecutors introduced evidence showing the defendant had deposited over $43k into her personal account, but the jury must have believed the former employee stole the remaining $58k as well.  The difference between prosecuting the defendant for the full $100k+ and just the $43k in her account is twofold.  First, the potential punishment for theft over $100k is double the 10-year maximum provided under the Maryland law for theft $25k to $100k, and the offense has a higher score in the sentencing guidelines.  Assuming the defendant has no prior criminal record, she faces a guideline sentencing range of probation to 2 years in prison, while the lesser theft offense would have carried a guideline range of probation to 6 months.  Second, the State is now justified in seeking the full amount of restitution from the defendant, which the judge will almost certainly order and make a condition of her probation.

While the former town manager will only be sentenced on one of the counts due to the doctrine of merger and will not end up serving anywhere close to the 20-year maximum provided by law, she does face a realistic possibility of serving several months in jail or even at the division of corrections.  The case has been postponed for sentencing and a pre-sentence investigation or PSI has been ordered.  Two days after the Eastern Shore jury found the Somerset County defendant guilty a former Air Force employee pleaded guilty to theft of government property.  The 60-year-old Prince Georg’s County was working as a civilian travel coordinator for the Air Force, and was responsible for planning and scheduling congressional travel and approving expenses for trip escorts.  The defendant held a government issued credit card for employment purposes, which he misused secure cash advances that were then deposited into a work-related bank account that he controlled.  According to the plea the defendant then wrote checks to himself and deposited the same into his personal bank account for living expenses, family vacations, a Harley motorcycle and a baby grand piano.  All told the former Air Force employee stole over $750k and cost the government over $1 million after factoring in banking and services fees for the cash advances.  A search warrant was executed at his Brandywine home, and over $15k in cash was seized.    The defendant faces up to 10 years in prison and will be ordered to pay the full amount of restitution when he appears for sentencing at the Greenbelt federal courthouse in September.

The Blog will continue to follow these two cases and may post a follow up article after the two defendants are sentenced.  We will continue to monitor cases involving public corruption, fraud and theft in Maryland and in Florida and are available anytime to answer legal questions.  Benjamin Herbst is a criminal defense lawyer who specializes in theft, misconduct in office, counterfeiting and fraud.  He has successfully represented hundreds of clients charged with a range of offenses from shoplifting and employee theft to embezzlement and felony theft scheme.  Contact Benjamin anytime at 410-207-2598 or at 954-543-0305 in Florida anytime for a free consultation.

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money-1428594__480-300x200This week at the Greenbelt Federal Courthouse a 32-year-old man from Prince George’s County pleaded guilty to manufacturing and passing counterfeit currency.  Sentencing is currently set for early June, and the defendant faces up to 5 years in prison for conspiracy to pass counterfeit currency and up to 20 years in prison for manufacturing counterfeit currency.  As part of the plea agreement the PG County man from Capital Heights admitted to conspiring with two other individuals to print and use fake $100 and $20 bills.  The printing took place at the defendant’s home, and then he would either sell the fake money at a discount or buy merchandise with it at local retailers.  At some point law enforcement officers caught wind of the conspiracy and applied for a search warrant, which was executed in March of 2018.  Agents recovered cell phones, three counterfeit $100 bills, linen copy paper, a printer, a .38 caliber revolver and shell casing, and a scale and baggies.  The U.S. Secret Service took over the investigation and determined that the ink contained in the seized printer’s ink cartridge was indistinguishable from numerous counterfeit bills that were later recovered.

The defendant and his co-conspirators were not arrested by federal agents after the search warrant was executed, and unbeknownst to them the investigation continued.  Federal law enforcement agencies are known for their patience in gathering as much evidence as possible before charges are formally filed, and this case is a perfect example.  In the summer and fall of 2019 federal law enforcement continued to monitor the suspects and documented numerous transactions where counterfeit currency was used.  In July of 2019 law enforcement conducted a traffic stop on the defendant’s vehicle and found 18 counterfeit $100 bills after a brief chase where the defendant attempted to run away.  A few months later in October of 2019 the defendant’s vehicle was again stopped, and again he attempted to flee.  During his brief flight the defendant discarded counterfeit currency in a trashcan, which was recovered by law enforcement.  Police also recovered uncut sheets of counterfeit $20 bills.  All told the defendant admitted to passing between $95,000 and $150,000 in counterfeit bills.  The defendant agreed to pay at least $95,000 in restitution joint and severally with the other co-conspirators.  It is reasonable to question whether the victims would have been defrauded out of this much money if the suspects had been prosecuted in 2018, rather than more than a year later.

It does not seem like the defendant has a lengthy criminal history, which should help his cause at sentencing.  On the other hand, the government will certainly emphasize the fact that the defendant continued to engage in criminal activity despite the execution of multiple searches and seizures upon his home, car and person.  The defendant also ran from police twice, and showed no signs of abandoning the criminal conspiracy on his own.  The defendant was even charged with felony theft and possessing forged currency in Maryland state court in the District Court for Montgomery County in Rockville, but these charges were dismissed likely in anticipation of a federal indictment.  The defendant had ample opportunity to see that law enforcement was on to him.

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714566_light_1-300x224Earlier this week two Palm Beach County men were arrested for allegedly breaking into two Wellington restaurants and stealing cash and gift cards.  PBSO originally received a call reporting burglaries at the two restaurants on Sunday morning, and responding officers observed smashed windows and ransacked cash registers.  A short time later PBSO received another call about a theft, but this time it was from their neighbors down in Broward County.  The Broward Sheriff’s Office apparently had one of their patrol cars go missing, and GPS pinged to a location in Palm Beach County.  Officers likely had no idea the two crimes were connected, but upon locating the stolen cop car and detaining the suspects the connection became clear.  Search incident to arrest revealed that the suspects possessed numerous gift cards from one of the burglarized restaurants, as well as cash and several suspected stolen credit cards.  The two suspects were taken to jail and booked on charges of burglary of an unoccupied structure, criminal mischief, grand theft of a motor vehicle and resisting arrest without violence.  One of the defendants, a 26-year old from Lake Worth, remains in custody, while the 30-year old defendant appears to have been released on bond.

It is unclear whether police have evidence that the two defendants actually stole the Broward police car, but both apparently admitted to being inside the vehicle.  Originally, they had fled from the scene on foot and were not arrested in the stolen car.  Upon being questioned, both reportedly denied any involvement in the burglary, though the gift cards and cash clearly gave police probable cause for the charges.  While both men are facing multiple felony charges, it appears that all the felonies are of the third-degree variety.  The incarcerated defendant is facing felony charges for corruption by threat against a public servant, in addition to the felony burglary, criminal mischief over $1,000 and grand theft charges.  Resisting an officer without violence is considered a first-degree misdemeanor under Florida law that is handled in county court unless there is an accompanying felony such as in this case.

The Blog will continue to track this case and may post a follow-up article in the future if anything newsworthy comes down from the courthouse.  It remains to be seen whether the pair will face any charges in Broward County, or whether the evidence recovered could lead to additional charges elsewhere.  The two suspected burglars should have been aware that all police cars and most commercial vehicles are equipped with GPS tracking systems that are extremely precise.  Once BSO realized that one of their vehicles went missing it was only a matter of minutes before it could be located.  It is unclear just how these defendants managed to come across a BSO patrol car, but details to this end will probably be released.  It’s certainly an embarrassing situation when a police force allows one of its vehicles to be stolen, which is exactly why it presents a compelling news article to readers.  If you or a loved one has been arrested or has an outstanding warrant for burglary, grand theft, resisting arrest or criminal mischief contact South Florida criminal defense lawyer Benjamin Herbst anytime for a free consultation.  Benjamin is available to meet and take on cases in the Treasure Coast and in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties, and specializes in burglary and theft charges.  He has won numerous resisting arrest cases throughout South Florida and is also an experienced Maryland criminal lawyer who has successfully represented thousands of clients in charges ranging from DUI and drug distribution to murder and attempted murder.  Benjamin also specializes in firearm offenses such as illegal possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and carrying a concealed firearm.  Contact Benjamin at 954-543-0305 or 410-207-2598 to find out which defenses may be available in your case.

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store-984393__480-1-300x200Bel Air Police have arrested two suspects in connection with a series of retail thefts spanning multiple states, and one remains in custody at the Harford County Detention Center.  The incident occurred last week at a Dick’s Sporting Goods location in Harford County where the two suspects allegedly took several items from the store and fled the scene in a silver Ford Fusion.  Police were called to investigate and then canvassed the area looking for the suspected vehicle.  During their search for the suspects, police came across a car matching the description in the Harford Mall parking lot, and waited to see if anyone appeared.  While police maintained surveillance on the Ford Fusion, other officers apprehended one of the suspects walking in the area.  The second suspect was then arrested as she headed toward the vehicle, and officers later determined that both were involved in another retail theft inside of the mall.  Police sought and received a search warrant for the Ford Fusion, and upon execution of that warrant discovered over $2,000 worth of stolen apparel from various retail stores.

The two suspects were arrested and charged with misdemeanor theft and theft scheme, and taken before the District Court Commissioner for a determination of their release conditions.  One of the defendants, a 24-year old female from Baltimore City, was released on an unsecured personal bond.  This means the defendant will not have to put any money up unless she fails to show up for her trial date, which has not been scheduled as of this time. The other defendant, a 25-year old female from Odenton in Anne Arundel County was originally granted release on a $5,000 bail, but then held without bail by a District Court Judge the next day.  Normally, and especially during COVID-19, defendants are not held without bail for theft charges, but this defendant apparently had an active arrest warrant out of Virginia for theft.  The judge was likely concerned that either she was a flight risk or that she would not be returned to court in time for her December 8, 2020 trial date if she was sent to Virginia.  Defendants who are incarcerated are generally scheduled for District Court trial within 30-45 days, while defendants who are on the street are scheduled much further out from the date of their arrest.

We will continue to follow this case, and may post a follow-up article if anything interesting occurs in the either trial.  The incarcerated defendant may end up taking a plea in December, as postponing the case or requesting a jury trial could result in a major delay, and continued incarceration.  Unlike employee theft cases, misdemeanor retail theft cases of this magnitude generally do not result in a jail sentence unless the defendant has a criminal record.  In this case the incarcerated defendant has a relatively lengthy criminal history, including prior convictions for theft out of Baltimore County and malicious destruction of property out of Anne Arundel County.  These prior convictions combined with the active warrant out of Virginia could result in a much harsher sentence should she be found guilty.  The District Court for Harford County has been known over the years to hand out harsher sentences than neighboring jurisdictions such as Baltimore County, but every case has its own story and every defendant a unique background.  Benjamin Herbst is a Maryland and Florida criminal defense lawyer who specializes in theft and theft scheme cases in all jurisdictions including Harford County.  Benjamin has successfully defended hundreds of clients charged with employee theft, retail theft, embezzlement, fraud and other white-collar crimes.  He also handles probation violations and drug, gun and violent criminal cases such as robbery, attempted murder and aggravated assault.  Call his Maryland office at 410-207-2598 or his Florida office at 954-543-0305.
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car-1531277__480-300x200A veteran Anne Arundel County police officer has been arrested and charged with numerous felony offenses for allegedly stealing from the home of a deceased man in Pasadena.  Back in April multiple officers responded to the residence after a report of an unattended death.  The officer in question then returned to the house the next day in full uniform, and according to reports took cash and firearms with him.  A witness observed the officer removing the firearms from the house, but thought it was routine police activity.  The witness never mentioned what he saw until months later when a family member of the deceased homeowner called the department in search of the missing firearms for estate purposes.  The department started asking questions and ultimately came across the witness.

Detectives were probably surprised to learn their prime suspect was one of their own, but nonetheless proceeded to hone in on making an arrest.  Police executed a search warrant on the officer’s home in Linthicum and he was arrested soon thereafter.  The 5-year veteran officer was released on his own recognizance by a district court commissioner after being booked and charged with 6 different offenses including first-degree burglary, felony theft and misconduct in office.  He was also charged with third-degree burglary, fourth-degree burglary and felony theft scheme, and has been placed on leave without pay by the Anne Arundel County Police Department.  There is currently no preliminary hearing date set for the officer’s case, but regardless it will ultimately be forwarded to the Circuit Court for a resolution.

It is too early to tell whether this case will end up going to trial, but if detectives found the firearms during the execution of the search warrant then a guilty plea is almost a foregone conclusion.  While the officer is facing 6 total charges, his attorney will likely argue for the four felonies to be dismissed.  The State will probably push for a plea involving the misconduct in office charge, and one additional theft or burglary charge.  Misconduct in office is a common law offense in Maryland that does not have a set maximum penalty, but it is considered a misdemeanor. Whether the defense can convince the State to go on misdemeanor fourth-degree burglary remains to be seen, as this would ensure the officer does not end up with a felony conviction.

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salmon-3139390__480-300x150A popular downtown Annapolis restaurant was burglarized last month, and the two suspects have yet to be identified or apprehended.  Unfortunately, dozens of businesses and homes are burglarized each day in Maryland, but this incident was particularly bizarre.  For starters, surveillance video showed the suspects entering the restaurant’s kitchen through an unlocked door while many members of the staff were still busing closing down after a night of business.  Rather than proceed to look for cash, liquor or other common valuable items, the burglars went straight to the walk-in refrigerator an emerged with approximately 40 salmon fillets.  At a cost of $10 per fillet, the total loss for the restaurant was around $400.  While not the heist of the year, this likely ranks as one of the largest fish thefts in Anne Arundel County in a while.

Annapolis Police first responded to the call after midnight following a busy post-quarantine Sunday night.  According to police, the manager was getting ready to head home when he noticed several salmon fillets sitting in the kitchen instead of their normal storage spot in the fridge.  He questioned his fellow employees, but none were able to provide an explanation about the mislaid fillets.  A trip to the office for a review of the security cameras quickly explained the situation, though it was likely not what the employees expected to see.  It is unclear whether the thieves performed a quick in and out job, or took their time to maximize their haul.  In the movies, a bank heist usually goes south when the robbers spend too much time in the vault.  These salmon thieves may have taken notice and limited their time in the walk-in refrigerator.

Had the pair have been caught in the act, or identified and arrested down the road they would have faced multiple criminal charges including second-degree burglary.  Second-degree burglary is defined as breaking and entering a storehouse (business) with the intent to commit a theft, arson or a crime of violence.  Contrary to common belief, breaking and entering does not mean the suspect actually has to break something to gain access to the interior of the building.  Opening an unlocked door and crossing through the doorway is enough of an intentional act to qualify as breaking and entering under Maryland law.  Second-degree burglary is a felony with a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison, though if a firearm was stolen it becomes a 20-year maximum.  Other states such as Florida have similar enhanced penalties when a burglary suspect steals a firearm during the course of the crime.  In Florida this becomes armed burglary, which is actually punishable by life in prison.  The suspects would also have been charged with theft less than $1,500, which is punishable by up to 6 months in jail.  If the suspects did not have lengthy criminal records the state would likely have offered a plea to theft, and kept the offense a misdemeanor.  The case is likely to remain as cold as the salmon left in the fridge, but if anything changes the Blog will be sure to post a follow up article.

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street-lamp-4843331_1280-300x200Two suspects have been charged after months of investigation into a series of copper wire thefts from light poles along the Baltimore Beltway.  Since April law enforcement has been investigating as many as four separate incidents where copper wire was forcibly removed from the state-owned poles lining the travel lanes of 695.  On the night the defendants were arrested, troopers responded to the Falls Road exit in the Lutherville-Timonium area of Baltimore County at around 4 in the morning.  It appears that the pair were caught in the act and eventually taken into custody without incident.  Following their arrest, the criminal investigations division of MSP along with help from the State Highway Administration connected the defendants to the three other thefts of similar nature.  According to state officials, the four thefts caused approximately $66k in damage to the existing poles.  As a result of the value of the damage and the cost of replacement, both defendants are facing multiple felony theft charges, as well as malicious destruction of property over $1,000.  The defendants are set to appear in the Essex District Court on September 3 for their trials, but there is a good chance this date could be pushed back, or that the cases will be moved to the Circuit Court for Baltimore County.

This recent arrest was hardly the first run in with the law for either defendant.  In fact, the pair are co-defendants in a pending theft with similar facts in Howard County.  One of the defendants actually has 4 open cases in multiple jurisdictions including Anne Arundel County, Harford County, Howard County and this Baltimore County case.  It also looks like the 45-year old Baltimore City man is facing a violation of probation for a Glen Burnie drug possession case.  The defendants look to have avoided the most serious theft charge of theft over $100k in this particular case, but still face up to 10 years in prison for each count of theft more than $25k.  They also could be looking at additional time for malicious destruction of property related to the damage caused to the light posts.  Both also face theft scheme charges for participating in multiple criminal acts, and will likely have thousands of dollars in restitution payments should they be found guilty.  One of the defendants is out of custody, while the other remains in the Baltimore County Detention Center in Towson on a no bail hold.  The judge likely considered this defendant was both a flight risk and a danger to the community based on his prior record and multiple pending charges.

The Blog will continue to follow this case and may post a follow up article in the future if anything newsworthy occurs in the case.  Both defendants face an uphill battle in this case based on their prior criminal record, and if convicted, the judge could be especially harsh considering the crimes were committed during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Benjamin Herbst is a Maryland criminal defense lawyer who specializes in theft charges in state and federal court.  He also handles in malicious destruction of property cases, and has successfully defended numerous clients in Baltimore County, Howard County, Harford County, Anne Arundel County and all other Maryland jurisdictions.  If you have a question about a criminal case feel free to call Benjamin anytime at 410-207-2598 for a no obligation consultation.  It is too much of a gamble to walk into criminal court without an experienced lawyer by your side, and there is no risk in speaking with Benjamin to see what defenses may be available in your case.

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graphics-882726_640-300x207The notorious former mayor of Baltimore City learned her fate last week in federal court, and will now have to serve three years in prison followed by three years of supervised release.  The 69-year old must also pay over $400,000 in restitution to victims of her crimes, and forfeit almost $670,000 in assets including property that was purchased with illegally gained funds.  The sentence was announced by the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland, the FBI and the IRS.  The former mayor will likely surrender to the Federal Bureau of Prisons within the next couple of months, and be assigned to a minimum-security facility or prison camp.  Since there is no parole under federal law, the former mayor could serve a little more than 30 months in prison, with the potential for an earlier release to a halfway house.

The former mayor was sentenced on four separate criminal counts including conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to defraud the United States and two counts of tax evasion.  All four offenses are classified as felonies under federal law, and the mayor will now live the rest of her life as a convicted felon.  According to the facts stipulated in the guilty plea that took place a few months ago, the former mayor conspired with her 38-year old legislative aide to carry out a complex web of frauds over the course a nearly decade long business relationship.  The major fraud scheme was related to the mayor’s three-part children’s book series, which was created in 2011.  The defendant and her aide contracted with the University of Maryland Medical System to deliver 20,000 books in each series for $5 per copy.  This $300,000 contract stipulated in part that the books would be delivered to Baltimore City schools, but the former mayor instead resold the books to other charities to generate more profits.

Defrauding the University of Maryland and other non-profits was only half of the scheme, as the former mayor did not report any of these illegal profits to the IRS.  Rather, the two co-conspirators funneled the money to straw donors, fictitious citizens who donated money to the mayor’s reelection campaigns.  The mayor also issued checks to her former legislative aide for services that were never rendered.  The money was either turned into untraceable cash or money orders, or used to pay credit card bills and legal fees.  The legislative aide faced charges for violating Maryland election laws in 2017, and it was likely that UM and other non-profits paid for his legal fees.  The aide was ultimately convicted for violating election laws and had his nomination to serve as a state delegate taken away by the governor.

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money-943782_960_720-300x225The second of two defendants who committed a 2018 armed robbery in Baltimore City was sentenced last week to 9 years in federal prison.  The 29-year old defendant was originally charged in state court with, but about 7 months after the robbery the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office entered the charges nolle prosequi, which meant they declined to prosecute the case.  While a nolle pros. is usually a cause for celebration, in this case it was the opposite, as the case was dismissed in state court after federal prosecutors decided to take over.

As detailed in guilty plea, in February of 2018 the defendant and another Baltimore City man walked into a restaurant brandishing a firearm and demanded money from the cash register.  In addition to taking cash from the register and the tip jar, the defendants also took personal belongings at gunpoint from patrons at the restaurant.  After the defendants left the restaurant a 911 call to the Baltimore Police was placed and officers arrived on scene shortly thereafter.  One officer was canvassing the area of the robbery, and located two suspects in an alley counting cash up against a brick wall.  The suspects matched the description in the 911 call, and the counting money in an alleyway was certainly another cause for concern.  Both suspects were detained and searched, and police found $272 in cash, a bag of change, two masks, two bandannas, two cell phones that belonged to victims and a receipt from the restaurant.  Police also found a loaded handgun in the vicinity that matched the description a victim gave of the gun used in the robbery.

There was little question that police had detained and arrested the right suspects, and a show-up identification by the victims confirmed what police already knew.  The only questions remaining were who would prosecute the case, and how much time the defendants would receive.  Initially the case began as a Baltimore City District Court case, and a month after the incident the State filed a 25-count indictment in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City, which included charges for first and second degree assault, armed robbery, robbery, use of a firearm in a crime of violence and firearm possession by a convicted felon.  The charges regarding firearm use in a violent crime and possession by a convicted felon both carry 5-year mandatory minimum sentences upon conviction.  Either way the defendants were likely going to serve at least 5 years, but ultimately the feds decided they would prosecute the case.

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mail-truck-3248139_1280-300x200Montgomery County Police have charged a 32-year old mail carrier with multiple counts of theft for stealing numerous pieces of mail including a package containing rare coins worth close to $3,000.  The Greenbelt man has likely worked his last shift as a federal employee after allegedly confessing to the crime.  In addition to the confession, U.S. Postal Police Agents searched the defendant’s home and found other pieces of stolen mail from his delivery route in Silver Spring.  The mail carrier now faces six charges in the Montgomery County District Court, including two felonies for theft over $1,500 but less than $25,000.  He is also charged with theft scheme, and conspiracy to commit theft over $1,500, for allegedly working with another person to sell the stolen goods.  Trial is currently set for February 25, 2020 in the Silver Spring courthouse.  Online court records show the man is represented by the Public Defender, though his income as a federal employee may bar their continued representation.

Like many theft defendants, the mail carrier may have sealed fate by trying to flip the stolen coins for cash too soon, and in the same general location as the theft.  It seems as if the defendant conspired with another person to sell the goods to a coin shop in downtown Silver Spring, in an effort to conceal his own identity.  Unbeknownst to the co-conspirator, the coin shop, and other coin shops in the area, had already been tipped off about the possibility of these specific rare coins potentially being stolen.  An email was apparently circulated to pawn shops in the region.  The Silver Spring coin shop refused to engage in a transaction, and contacted law enforcement to inform them of the development.  The investigation led officers to the mail carrier in Greenbelt, and upon being questioned he apparently admitted to everything.

The mail carrier likely does not have a criminal record, as the requirements to work for the USPS include strict background checks.  The strict requirements are consistent with the mail carrier’s important responsibility of safeguarding private and potentially valuable pieces of mail.  In an age where we are shipping more things of value than ever before, USPS mail carriers have remained reliable and trustworthy.  By far the main concern with shipping packages in modern times is porch piracy, or the act of stealing delivered packages off a person’s property.  Having a mail carrier actually steal your mail is the last thing we expect or can imagine, so an incident like this is definitely disconcerting.

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