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Press Release

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Announces Arrest Of Postal Carrier For Theft Of Over $1 Million In Tax Refund Checks

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of New York

Preet Bharara, United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Eileen Neff, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Northeast Area Field Office of the U.S. Postal Service, Office of Inspector General (“USPS-OIG”), Philip R. Bartlett, Inspector-in-Charge of the New York Office of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (“USPIS”), and Shantelle P. Kitchen, Special Agent-in-Charge of the New York Field Office of the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation Division (“IRS”), announced today the arrest of OSCAR LOPEZ in connection with a conspiracy to obtain over $1 million in fraudulently-issued tax refund checks from his U.S. Postal Service (“USPS”) delivery route.  The defendant, a USPS mail carrier, was arrested this morning and is expected to be presented later today in Manhattan federal court before U.S. Magistrate Judge Sarah Netburn.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said:  “As alleged, Oscar Lopez used his position as a U.S. Postal Service mail carrier to steal over $1 million in taxpayer funds.  The exemplary investigative work of the Postal Service Inspector General’s Office, the Postal Inspection Service, and the IRS put an end to Lopez’s alleged involvement in this scheme.”

USPS-OIG Special Agent in Charge said: “The U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General aggressively investigates Postal Service employees who would abuse their position of trust. We value our law enforcement partners who work closely with us in matters like these.”

USPIS Inspector in Charge Philip R. Bartlett said: “As a taxpayer and a United States Postal Service employee, I find the allegations against the defendant disturbing.  I have little tolerance for those who would use their position of public trust to facilitate criminal activity, as is alleged in this investigation.  Postal Inspectors and their law enforcement partners will put a stop to crime wherever it exists; keeping the mail safe and secure for its employees and customers.”

IRS-CI Special Agent-in-Charge Shantelle P. Kitchen said: “A fraudulent tax refund scheme is, essentially, the use of false pretenses to steal money from the U.S Treasury.  Yet, despite this simple description, fraudulent tax refund fraud schemes can involve a web of co-conspirators who obtain taxpayer information, file the tax returns and secure and negotiate the refund checks.  IRS-Criminal Investigation is responsible for investigating the abusers of our nation’s tax system, with the goals of safeguarding public funds and maintaining public confidence in the system.”

According to the allegations contained in the Complaint filed today in Manhattan federal court[1]:

From at least June 2010 to May 2012, LOPEZ typically delivered mail on an assigned route in ZIP code 10460 in the Bronx.  LOPEZ obtained fraudulently-issued tax refund checks that had been mailed by the IRS to addresses along his delivery route.  He then provided those checks to his co-conspirators, who returned a portion of the value of the checks to him.  In total, over $1 million in fraudulently-issued tax refund checks that were mailed to LOPEZ’s delivery route ended up being negotiated against, or deposited into, a bank account associated with one of LOPEZ’s co-conspirators.      

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LOPEZ, 36, of Brooklyn, New York, is charged with one count of conspiring to steal government funds, which carries a maximum term of five years in prison, and one count of theft of government funds, which carries a maximum term of ten years in prison.  The maximum potential sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge.

Mr. Bharara praised the outstanding work of the USPS-OIG, the USPIS, and the IRS in the investigation.

The case is being handled by the Office’s General Crimes Unit.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Drew Johnson-Skinner is in charge of the prosecution.

The charges contained in the Complaint are merely accusations and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

[1] As the introductory phrase signifies, the entirety of the text of the Complaint, and the description of the Complaint set forth herein, constitute only allegations, and every fact described should be treated as an allegation.

Updated July 2, 2015

Press Release Number: 15-167