by Jon Guze
Senior Fellow, Legal Studies, John Locke Foundation
A recent NPR story describes a surprizingly successful caper by a remarkably creative criminal:
Dushaun Henderson-Spruce submitted a U.S. Postal Service change of address form on Oct. 26, 2017, according to court documents. He requested changing a corporation’s mailing address from an address in Atlanta to the address of his apartment on Chicago’s North Side.
The post office duly updated the address, and Henderson-Spruce allegedly began receiving the company’s mail — including checks. It went on for months. Prosecutors say he deposited some $58,000 in checks improperly forwarded to his address. …
For nearly three months, mail addressed to UPS’s corporate headquarters was forwarded to Henderson-Spruce’s apartment. He received so much mail that the mail carrier had to leave it in a USPS tub outside his door, the Tribune reports.
The mail carrier told investigators that “voluminous” amounts of company mail were delivered to Henderson-Spruce, sometimes handed to him directly.
The mail contained personal identifying information of employees, as well as business checks and invoices, according to the affadavit. He was also sent American Express corporate credit cards. Henderson-Spruce allegedly deposited into his bank account some 10 checks addressed to the company, totaling approximately $58,000.
This went on until Jan. 16, when UPS security flagged the situation to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. …
Henderson-Spruce now faces federal charges of mail theft, which carries a maximum sentence of five years, and mail fraud, which can be up to 20.
While this case is eye-popping — no one at the post office thought it weird that a guy was getting thousands of pieces of a company’s mail forwarded to his apartment? — there have been many reports of regular people having their mailing addresses changed without their knowledge. …
In a statement to NPR, the USPS says it processed nearly 37 million change-of-address requests last year, and not all change-of-address complaints turn out to be fraud:
“The rate of suspicious transactions reported by customers is less than 1/10 of 1 percent and many of the complaints are determined not to be related to fraud. A number of these complaints can be traced to domestic or other disputes between families and friends, who have access as a result of their relationship to information which allows one to forward mail. Still others can be attributed to service-related issues.
“We are continuously implementing security enhancements to enhance the security of our change of address process. We continue to assess these options, as we determine the best alternatives to protect the needs of our customers.”
The Postal Service encourages customers to retrieve their mail on a daily basis or monitor it online. “Any suspicious activity, or non-receipt of mail over a couple days should be reported to their local post office, or to our federal law enforcement arm, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.”