Upstate New York Rep. Elise Stefanik says US Postal Service workers tore open her campaign mail and stole $20,000 in campaign checks — while also leaving donors exposed to potential identity theft or fraud.
Stefanik, the powerful House Republican Conference chairwoman, made the stunning claim in a Thursday letter to Postmaster General Louis DeJoy.
The congresswoman’s office also provided The Post with photographic evidence — obtained from the Postal Service — of mail from donors being ransacked, including a torn check from one contributor.
“We are writing you on behalf of our clients, Congresswoman Elise Stefanik and
her campaign committee, Elise for Congress, concerning the repeated, targeted theft of
campaign contributions from packages sent through the United States Postal Service
(“USPS”),” said Stefanik’s D.C.-based lawyer, Michael Toner.
“On four separate occasions between June 2022 and November 2022, packages sent by Elise for Congress containing campaign contributions were ripped open and the contents stolen while in the custody of USPS or its contractors.”
Toner said three of the thefts discovered in Memphis occurred in a single week and concluded that the “evidence indicates that Elise for Congress’s packages were plundered by a USPS employee or contractor while the packages were in transit.”
“These repeated security failures by USPS have not only resulted in the loss of nearly $20,000 in campaign contributions, but also—and more alarmingly—have exposed hundreds of Congresswoman Stefanik’s campaign supporters to potential identity theft or financial fraud,” Stefanik’s lawyer said.
It’s unclear if any of the stolen checks were cashed.
“Elise for Congress is continuing to identify our grassroots donors who have been affected by this and look forward to a speedy response from Mr. DeJoy,” a campaign spokesperson said.
The letter indicates that the USPS Office of the Inspector General is investigating the mail theft, but Stefanik is disappointed and frustrated by the response thus far.
“The US Postal Inspection Service — which recovered the discarded, ripped
open packages in Memphis — has not returned our client’s calls,” Toner said.
The Postal Service IG’s office said it would be difficult to nab the USPS employees or contractors who committed the crimes unless one or more of Stefanik’s donors “becomes the victim of identity theft or financial fraud,” Toner said.
The Stefanik letter also said the congresswoman expected a USPS investigative report shortly after the June mail thefts, but has not received one.
“It is unacceptable that USPS has repeatedly allowed these targeted thefts to occur and cannot identify who committed the thefts, let alone where or how the thefts occurred,” Stefanik’s attorney told DeJoy.
Clearly annoyed, Stefanik is demanding that the USPS give her a full update by Dec. 8 on what actions it has taken to date in investigating the thefts, and what measures it will take to prevent or prosecute mail theft against her and other Americans in the future.
Stefanik, meanwhile, can ramp up her oversight of the Postal Service when Republicans reclaim the House majority in January and take over key investigative panels.
Stefanik’s letter says mail theft has become “rampant” in the United States, with crooks tearing into packages they believe contain cash or checks, which are then “washed”, rewritten and cashed. It cited research indicating the number of stolen checks for sale on the dark web has skyrocketed from 114 per week in the fall of 2020 to about 2,000 checks per week this year.
In August, three postal carriers in Queens were charged with stealing mail as part of a $16 million COVID-19 benefits scam.
“This astonishing increase in mail theft appears, in part, to be the result of criminals moving from small-scale theft targeting individual mail boxes to large-scale theft targeting mail once it has been entrusted to the custody of USPS,” Stefanik’s lawyer, Toner, said.
“Mail theft can devastate small business owners and those on fixed incomes,
including the elderly,” Toner noted. “By failing to prevent or deter mail theft, USPS is exposing hardworking, innocent Americans to predatory criminals just as rising inflation and a cooling economy have left them at their most financially vulnerable.”
The Postal Service had no immediate comment.