By Joseph Lord
House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) relayed reports that over $20,000 in campaign funds were stolen from her by postal workers, and has demanded that the United States Postal Service (USPS) provide answers.
Stefanik announced the news in a Dec. 2 press release.
Stefanik’s team discovered the crime in June, after the law enforcement division of the USPS, the Postal Inspection Service, informed them that a package containing hundreds of checks had been ripped into and the checks—campaign donations to Stefanik—had been removed from the parcels. Similar instances took place again in October and then November.
Reportedly, the discarded and ripped packages were discovered by the Postal Inspection Service in June.
Though mail theft is a long-running crime in the United States, mail theft of a congress member’s campaign checks is a first.
Adding to the unprecedented nature of the crime, Stefanik was serving as the No. 3 GOP leader, conference chair, when the crimes took place. She has been reelected to the position for the 118th Congress.
In a Dec. 1 letter to Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, Stefanik relayed the information she had received about the crime.
“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. Three of these incidents occurred in a single week,” Stefanik wrote. “In each case, the evidence indicates that Elise for Congress’s packages were plundered by a USPS employee or contractor while the packages were in transit.”
Photos included in the press release show packages clearly torn into.
More concerning than the theft of the checks, Stefanik said, is the risk of identity theft that this crime poses for her donors.
“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.”
According to the release, “repeated security failures” by the USPS were the cause of the theft.
Stefanik lists shocking allegations in the release, claiming that postal workers had cut into several packages containing hundreds of checks each and mailed on three separate days.
“We take extra steps to make sure they are sent securely,” Stefanik wrote, “but these packages were clearly cut into … directly with the checks stolen.”
USPS Ignored Stefanik’s Queries
Despite the unprecedented nature of the crime, Stefanik says the USPS has dragged its feet in answering her queries. She is now demanding a ramp-up of the investigation.
“The postal police have failed to escalate this matter, even after our senior campaign officials reached out to them,” Stefanik said.
Stefanik says that after she was notified of the crimes, USPS stopped taking her calls pushing them to treat the matter with more urgency.
In her letter to DeJoy, Stefanik reported: “Our clients have been disappointed by USPS’s response thus far to these brazen incidents. The US Postal Inspection Service—which recovered the discarded, ripped open packages in Memphis—has not returned our client’s calls.”
The USPS Office of the Inspector General (OIG) told Stefanik’s team, Stefanik paraphrased, that “it would be difficult to identify the USPS employees or contractors who perpetrated these crimes unless and until one or more of Elise for Congress’s supporters becomes the victim of identity theft or financial fraud.”
Following the incident in June, Stefanik was told to expect a report from the USPS Office of Inspector General. Now, nearly half a year later, they are still waiting for that report.
“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 said.
The theft against her, Stefanik says, speaks to a more “systemic” problem with USPS mail security.
“Given the systemic nature of this serious problem, Congresswoman Stefanik and Elise for Congress feel compelled to elevate this issue to you,” Stefanik wrote.
She included a list of demands, including “a list of all concrete actions taken by USPS to investigate these thefts,” “the particular steps that USPS will take to ensure that Elise for Congress will not be the victim of mail theft in the future,” and “a list of the actions that USPS will take to more effectively prevent, detect, and prosecute mail theft both in New York’s 21st Congressional District and nationwide.”
The theft, however, should concern everyday Americans too, Stefanik said, as the USPS seems “unwilling or unable” to combat mail theft effectively.
“Congresswoman Stefanik and her campaign supporters are not the only Americans who have been victimized by mail theft,” Stefanik’s team wrote. “Mail theft is rampant in the United States, and USPS appears unwilling or unable to effectively deter or prevent it. News outlets from Houston to Chicago and from the District of Columbia to Sacramento have reported on the growing mail theft crisis gripping America.”
Those hoping to cash in through mail theft will often target packages believed to contain cash or checks. Checks found in packages are then “washed,” removing the original writing, and re-written before being cashed out.
Because these checks also contain sensitive personal information, thieves can then further profit off of the theft by selling this information or using it themselves, meaning that victims of mail theft can later find their identities have been stolen by the perpetrators.
According to the Evidence-Based Cybersecurity Research Group at Georgia State University, stolen checks are popping up for sale on the dark web in much higher quantities than they did even a few years ago. The group found a 1,654 percent increase in the number of checks for sale on the dark web in 2022 over fall 2020 levels. The number of new stolen checks cropping up on the dark web has increased staggeringly, from around 114 stolen checks per week in 2020 to 2,000 stolen checks per week in 2022.
Often, the source of these crimes are postal workers themselves, Stefanik reported—a situation she blasted the USPS for failing to combat.
“Mail theft can devastate small business owners and those on fixed incomes, including the elderly,” the New York Republican wrote. “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.
“We hope that you and USPS are taking these systemic issues as seriously as they deserve to be taken. Our clients look forward to receiving the information from USPS specified above and continuing to work with both you and the relevant investigative authorities to ensure the scourge of mail theft is adequately addressed.”
David Partenheimer, speaking on behalf of the USPS, told The Epoch Times in an email that they had received Stefanik’s earlier requests.
“We will respond to the sender directly with our findings on this investigative matter,” Partenheimer wrote. “In matters like this, both the Postal Inspection Service and Office of Inspector General have a potential role to play.”