Federal officials say postal workers in metro Atlanta weren't just delivering mail but also cocaine on behalf of drug traffickers in exchange for bribes as low as $250. When the gavel came down Tuesday, a mail clerk and 15 letter carriers had been sentenced to between three and nine years in prison. The scheme first came to light in 2015 during an investigation into a drug trafficking group, which apparently thought postal workers would have a better chance of making the deliveries uncaught, according to the US Attorney's Office. Federal agents then watched as a confidential source posing as a drug trafficker sought USPS employees willing to deliver drugs to specific addresses for bribes, nabbing 16 "corrupt" workers ranging in age from 26 to 64, per CNN and the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
In a statement, prosecutors note defendants negotiated the amount of money they would charge and took additional bribes for packages delivered by other employees they recruited. Though USPS workers are "typically valuable members of the community, entrusted to deliver the mail every day to our homes," these 16 individuals "chose to abuse" the public trust and "used their positions to bring what they thought were large amounts of dangerous drugs into those same communities for a quick payoff," says US Attorney Byung J. Pak. Noting the possibility that rival drug traffickers could target USPS workers, officials say the scheme also put innocent people at risk. In addition to prison time, the workers were ordered to pay restitution. (This postal worker stole 6,000 greeting cards.)