Investigators say a postal worker suspected of stealing gift cards has been caught in the act opening mail — hours after an exclusive NBC 5 Responds report. That same employee is also suspected of stealing $500 in gift cards that a Lincolnshire grandmother mailed to her granddaughters last August.
Postal authorities made the discovery after NBC 5 Responds brought her case to their attention last September. The employee works at the USPS Distribution and Processing Center in Palatine, and according to authorities, is still on the job, despite evidence they gathered against him. Investigators now say others may be involved.
The story began when Janet Irgang said she wanted to do something nice for her granddaughters, both of whom are away at college. So using her debit card, she bought $500 worth of Amazon gift cards at Walgreens and mailed them from her local post office.
"Just a little something to say grandma loves you. I’m thinking of you," Irgang said.
When she never heard from the girls after several weeks, she said began to worry.
"No thank you's from my granddaughters, which is out of character, no delivery notices," Irgang recalled.
Fearing they’d fallen into the wrong hands, she asked Walgreens and Amazon to deactivate the cards.
"I begged for them to deactivate, not to give me my money back, just deactivate the cards,” Irgang said. “And they said, ‘Sorry lady that’s your problem.’ I thought I would fall through the floor. I really did."
So why wouldn’t the retailers help and deactivate the cards? One possible explanation: There’s no federal statute or regulation requiring any seller of gift cards to deactivate them when they are missing or stolen.
NBC 5 Responds reached out to Amazon and Walgreens for comment. Both companies confirmed the cards were not deactivated.
NBC 5 Responds has learned that employee theft within USPS is a nationwide problem. A Freedom of Information request revealed more than 145,000 lost or stolen mail complaints were filed with the service over the last two years. And more than 600 postal employees were arrested for internal mail theft in one year.
They are statistics that hit home for Janet Irgang, who said she is having a hard time forgiving herself, and is the first to admit she made mistakes.
"OK, I give her my debit card which was mistake number one—I should have never paid with it—with a debit card. But I didn’t know that at the time. Now I do," Irgang told NBC 5 Responds.
Mistake number two? No insurance.
"But now I know it’s like sending cash through the mail. It’s like handing them cash. Can you ask for your cash back? No," Irgang said.
Her expensive lesson clearly learned, Irgang says she won’t rest until the suspected postal thief learns his too.
"How can they not prosecute him? How can they not stop him?" Irgang asked. “He belongs out of their system."
Postal authorities tell NBC 5 Responds the suspect connected to this case has been questioned but not arrested. The investigation is ongoing and could ultimately end up in federal court.