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Don't run a fraud on the USPS -- they know where you live

The owner of a small secondhand store known as What Goes Around Comes Back Around up in Osceola County learned the hard way that it’s not a good idea to get into a disagreement with the U.S. Postal Service. To the USPS, a rural small business owner in Iowa is just as important a customer as the largest shipper on the coast -- and deserves equal scrutiny.

The Sibley man is accused of making false claims for postal losses amounting to at least $5,000, a violation of federal law that could land him in federal prison for a year, plus a fine.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office claims the man mailed himself pieces of artwork and then filed fraudulent damage claims with the Postal Service. He allegedly falsified information about how much the art was worth, thus inflating the value of the claims. His shipping damage claims for last year totaled $5,000, according to reports, and he filed additional claims worth $5,000 this year. This year’s claim was denied.

While we can’t be sure any of those claims were actually fraudulent, the Associated Press says that he has agreed to a sealed plea bargain with the U.S. Attorney’s Office. If that’s the case, he is expected to plead guilty to the fraud on Nov. 26.

It may seem relatively harmless to overcharge the federal government just a bit -- $5,000 or even $10,000 is such a tiny portion of the overall USPS budget and costs each taxpayer less than a penny. The federal government, however, takes fraud very, very seriously.

Even if the Sibley man’s plea bargain is very favorable, he still risks serving time in federal prison -- starting right before Thanksgiving.

If you are accused of committing a fraud against the government, don’t assume there’s no hope. Discuss your rights and options with an attorney experienced in federal cases.

Source: Claims Journal, “Northwest Iowa Man Charged With Postal Insurance Fraud,” Associated Press, Nov. 8, 2013

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