Seizures of Cash by U.S. Postal Inspectors
Was your money or other property seized by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) for forfeiture pursuant to 21 U.S.C. 881?
Although it is not against the law to send U.S. Currency through the mail, it might be seized for forfeiture if postal inspectors develop enough suspicion to obtain a search warrant.
In addition to U.S. Currency, the USPIS seizes money orders, cashier’s checks, Western Union Money Orders, jewelry, firearms, and other valuable property.
If your property was seized by the USPIS, seek the services of an attorney experienced in fighting civil asset forfeiture cases.
Attorneys for Investigations by U.S. Postal Inspectors in Florida
The attorneys at Sammis Law Firm represent clients being investigated for crimes involving the mail or a U.S. Post Office.
Many of our cases involve investigations of suspicious mail including drugs, firearms, or large amounts of U.S. Currency in violation of federal law throughout Florida and the entire United States.
Postal Inspectors present the facts gathered during their investigations to the prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
We are familiar with the tactics used by postal inspectors and other postal inspection service employees including the Office of Investigations Special Agents.
We understand how the Postal Inspection Service conducts its investigations, uses digital evidence, and analyzes latent fingerprints.
If your money or valuable property was seized, we help you get it back. For these investigations, you need an attorney focused on protecting your rights at every stage.
Seizure of U.S. Currency for Forfeiture by USPIS
You can find the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) Official Notification online.
The online listing provides a list of legal notices regarding property seized for federal forfeiture for violating federal law by the USPIS.
The procedures and laws applicable to the forfeiture process for U.S. currency and other valuable property seized by USPIS can be found in 39 C.F.R. Section 233.7, 18 U.S.C. Section 983, and 19 U.S.C. Sections 1602 -1619.
Although the USPIS might want you to file a petition for Remission or Mitigation, doing so will cause a considerable delay and routinely results in a form letter denying any relief.
By requesting remission or mitigation, you are admitting the property was properly seized. If the USPIS refuses to return any money, by the time you realize that, you will no longer have any right to be heard in the U.S. District Court.
Instead, you should retain an attorney to help you file a claim for early judicial intervention or immediate court action. Filing a claim for court action is the ONLY way to contest the forfeiture of the property in the United States District Court.
Your claim for court action after a seizure for forfeiture by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service must be received (in their hand) within either:
- the deadline outlined in the letter if you received a written notice via personal letter; or
- 30 calendar days after the date of final publication of the notice of seizure if you did not receive a personal notice.
As required by 18 U.S.C. Section 983(a)(2)(C) and 28 U.S.C. Section 1746, the claim for court action to contest the seizure of U.S. Currency by USPIS must do the following:
- describe the seized property; and
- state your ownership or other interest in the property; and
- be made under oath, subject to the penalty of perjury, or
- meet the requirements of an unsworn statement under penalty of perjury.
Although the claim need not be made in any particular form, an attorney can make sure you meet all of the statutory requirements and timely file the claim. The claim can be filed online or in writing as provided by 18 U.S.C. Section 983(a)(2)(D).
Claims must be sent to the USPIS pursuant to the instructions shown in the notice. You can find a standard claim form that can be mailed or sent online at the www.forfeiture.gov website.
Send the claim to the notice listed in the notice which might include:U.S. Postal Inspection Service
P.O. Box 91100
Washington, DC 20090-1100
If you are using a Commercial Delivery Service to deliver the claim, then you might be required to send it to the following address:U.S. Postal Inspection Service
900 Brentwood Road, NE
Washington, DC 20066-6096
For unclaimed or abandoned property held by the United States Postal Inspection Service, you can find out more information about recovering the property by visiting https://postalinspectors.uspis.gov.
Types of Criminal Investigations by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service
Criminal investigations by the postal inspector can include a wide range of criminal accusations including:
- mail-theft investigation;
- investigations of dangerous and prohibited mail;
- sending contraband through the mail (drugs or firearms);
- through-the-mail drug deals;
- narcotics investigations;
- mail fraud schemes;
- financial fraud;
- identity theft and forgery crimes;
- healthcare provider and claimant fraud;
- crimes against post offices and their employees
- robberies and burglaries of postal facilities;
- assaults and threats on postal employees;
- complaints of theft and misconduct by postal employees
- child pornography; and
- mailing bombs or other explosives.
Postal Inspectors preserve the integrity of the U.S. Mail® and the postal system from criminal misuse.
The USPIS agents (a.k.a. “post office cops”) also seize U.S. currency or other valuable property for forfeiture actions even when no arrest is made.
Although the postal inspectors with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service keep a low profile, inspectors carry a badge, handcuffs, and a gun.
As federal law enforcement officers, postal inspectors are authorized to make arrests, seize money or other assets, serve subpoenas, and request and execute federal search warrants.
Within the federal law enforcement community, postal inspectors are part of the so-called “silent service” since they play a behind-the-scenes role in many federal investigations.
Today, the agency has more than 1,200 postal inspectors tasked with enforcing more than 200 federal laws.
Tactics Used by Postal Inspectors with the U.S. Postal Service
Postal Inspectors with the U.S. Postal Service are considered to be investigative or law enforcement officers of the United States within the meaning of Title 18, United States Code, Section 2510(7).
In other words, Postal Inspectors are classified as an officer of the United States who is empowered to conduct investigations of or to make arrests for offenses enumerated in Title 18, United States Code, Section 2516.
The duties of a Postal Inspector with the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) include investigating criminal violations involving the U.S. Mail, its customers, employees, and infrastructure.
Some Postal Inspectors are assigned to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service’s Contraband Interdiction and Investigations, which is responsible for investigating the trafficking of controlled substances and their proceeds through the U.S. Mail.
In this capacity, Postal Inspectors often participate in the following:
- controlled substance and related currency interdictions;
- knock and talks;
- residential, and parcel search warrants; and
- arrest warrants.
Postal Inspectors are familiar with methods and trends used by drug traffickers who utilize the U.S. Mail to traffic narcotics and narcotics-related proceeds.
Many have successfully completed Basic Inspector Training at the USPIS Career Development Unit in Potomac, Maryland.
Postal Inspectors might seek a search warrant when:
- they develop probable cause:
- to believe that within a certain parcel;
- is certain property, namely controlled substances and/or materials relating to the transportation, ordering, distribution, possession, and sale of controlled substances;
- which constitutes evidence of a crime, contraband, fruits of a crime, or items illegally possessed, and property designed for the use, intended for use, or used in committing a crime;
- concerning violations Title 21, United States Code, Sections 841(a)(1), 843(b), and 846.
Postal Inspectors Investigating Drug Crimes
Postal Inspectors with USPIS, investigate violations of federal drug laws and related offenses, including, but not limited to, violations of 21 United States Code, Sections, 841(a)(1), 843(b), and 846.
Postal Inspectors and law enforcement officers often make assumptions during their investigation including:
- drug traffickers often use the United States Postal Service’s package mail services to transport controlled substances originating from areas throughout the United States, more commonly referred to as “source areas,” to other areas throughout the United States;
- drug traffickers prefer the United States Postal Service’s package mail services because of their speed, reliability, and the ability to track an article’s progress to the intended delivery point; further, drug traffickers prefer options with “Signature Waiver” because that option allows the recipient to receive the package without face-to-face contact with postal employees;
- drug traffickers often send controlled substances and controlled substance-related proceeds via the U.S. Mail using fictitious or incomplete return addresses and/or names not previously associated with an address;
- drug traffickers often send controlled substances and controlled substance-related proceeds via the U.S. Mail to businesses such as hotels or hotel-type establishments which allows the recipient a certain degree of anonymity to avoid law enforcement;
- drug traffickers often attempt to mask the odor of controlled substances sent through the mail. Methods of masking odors include taping the seams of packages excessively and including in the package items with strong scents, such as coffee beans and onions; and
- drug traffickers also ship currency and relevant documents, such as ledgers and travel tickets, through the U.S. Mail as part of the business of drug trafficking. Sending bulk cash shipments and pertinent documents through the mail allows drug traffickers to avoid an electronic trail of wire transfers and communication.
Based on those assumptions, the Postal Inspector might conclude that probable cause exists to believe that in a particular parcel there is a controlled substance and/or evidence, fruits, and instrumentalities of violations of Title 21, United States Code, Sections 841(a) (1), 843(b), and 846.
Those items might include controlled substances and/or materials relating to the transportation, ordering, distribution, possession and/or sale of controlled substances, including U.S. currency that may be the proceeds of drug trafficking and correspondence or other documents relating to drug trafficking.
History of the U.S. Postal Inspectors
Historically, postal inspectors are part of the oldest law enforcement agency dating to Ben Franklin, the first appointed postal auditor in the 1700s. Today, the postal inspector’s office has more than 1,200 agents.
Funding for postal inspectors comes entirely from the sale of stamps and mail services, including the funds needed to send inspectors to the training academy or regional crime laboratories.
According to the Asset Forfeiture Policy Manual (2019) published by the Department of Justice Asset Forfeiture Program in the section entitled “Custodial and Seizure Authority Charts”:
The USPIS (administrative forfeitures) and the USMS (judicial forfeitures) have seizure authority under 18 U.S.C. § 3061(a). Pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3061—all matters relating to the Postal Service and the mails.
The statutes enforced include:
- Theft of Mail (18 U.S.C. §§ 1708–09);
- Obscenity and Sexually Oriented Advertising (18 U.S.C. §§ 1461, 1463, 1735; 39 U.S.C. § 3010);
- Money Laundering (18 U.S.C. §§ 1956–57);
- Mail Fraud (18 U.S.C. §§ 1341–42, 1345;
- Lotteries (18 U.S.C. §§ 1301–03; 39 U.S.C. § 3005);
- Identity Fraud (18 U.S.C. § 1028);
- Criminal and Civil Forfeiture (18 U.S.C.§§ 981–82);
- Extortion (18 U.S.C. §§ 873, 876–77);
- Electronic Crimes (18 U.S.C. §§ 1029–30, 1037, 1343, 2701);
- Destruction, Obstruction and Delay of Mail (18 U.S.C. §§ 1700–03);
- Counterfeit Stamps, Money Orders and Related Crimes (18 U.S.C. §§ 500, 501, 503, 1720);
- Controlled Substances (21 U.S.C. §§ 841, 843–44); and
- Child Exploitation (18 U.S.C. §§ 1470, 2251–54, 2422, 2425).
Asset Forfeiture at USPIS – Visit the website of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service to learn more about civil asset forfeiture actions. When the property is seized by USPIS through asset forfeiture, a notice is posted publicly online at Forfeiture.gov. The notice of the seizure and forfeiture action by USPIS informs individuals, who may have an ownership interest, of their ability to file a claim for early judicial intervention and immediate court action instead of taking the less productive tactics of filing a petition for remission or mitigation.
Post Office Cops Used Social Media Surveillance Program Illegally – This article in Vice by Aaron Gordon and Joseph Cox explains why the Office of Inspector General found the agency did not have legal authority for searches in its “iCOP” surveillance program by conducting blanket keyword searches of social media for terms such as “protest,” “attack,” and “destroy.” The USPSOIG found iCOP searched social media for terms that “did not include any terms related to the mail, postal crimes, or security of postal facilities or personnel.”
This article was last updated on Friday, January 20, 2023.