Protecting the Innocent

Since the passage of the Child Protection Act in 1984, postal inspectors have arrested nearly 5,000 suspects for using the mail in violation of federal child exploitation laws. In 1999, inspectors helped shut down Landslide Productions, Inc. of Fort Worth, Texas, the largest-known child pornography enterprise in history, grossing $1.4 million each month from Web site subscriptions. Its founder was sentenced to 1,335 years in prison. The company’s customer records sparked a two-year undercover sting operation called “Operation Avalanche,” with investigators contacting former Web site subscribers and arresting them if they accepted delivery of child pornography.

Mail fraud — free-prize schemes, foreign lotteries, pyramid schemes, investment fraud, and work-at-home scams — has been around for generations, but a new type of fraud emerged in the late 20th century: credit card fraud. More than one million credit cards travel through the U.S. Mail each day. In 1992 the Inspection Service partnered with major credit card issuers to protect cards and cardholders against theft. The Inspection Service also worked to prevent credit card fraud through community awareness, publicizing prevention guidelines.

Following 9/11 and the discovery of anthrax in the mail in October 2001, postal inspectors were trained in hazardous waste operations, emergency response, and the handling of mail-screening equipment. Inspectors work with postal employees, local first responders, and public health personnel to conduct regular interagency drills at postal facilities with biohazard detection systems.

In the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, nearly 300 postal inspectors and postal police officers, as well as special agents of the Office of Inspector General, assisted in recovery operations on the Gulf Coast. Inspectors and officers worked with Postal Service employees to determine damage to postal property, assess environmental conditions of facilities, and expedite changes of address for displaced residents. Inspectors provided 112 security escorts for Postal Service employees and contractors disbursing federal checks to needy citizens. They also joined the U.S. Department of Justice’s Hurricane Katrina Fraud Task Force to investigate and warn citizens of fraud schemes related to relief efforts.

Postal inspectors continue to protect the Postal Service, its employees, and its customers from criminal attack, and the nation’s mail from criminal misuse. n