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Thousands in cash missing from department store. Feds say postal carrier took it

Federal agents say a U.S. Postal Service carrier stole at least 20 priority mail envelopes from a Florida City clothing store. In all, the Van Heusen store reported $94,000 missing.
Federal agents say a U.S. Postal Service carrier stole at least 20 priority mail envelopes from a Florida City clothing store. In all, the Van Heusen store reported $94,000 missing.

Federal agents say a Postal Service worker stole at least 20 priority mail envelopes from a Florida City clothing outlet store that were destined for Ohio and contained tens of thousands of dollars in cash.

From November until late this month, 36 priority mail envelopes sent from the Van Heusen clothing store at the Florida Keys Outlet Center in Florida City containing $94,000 in cash never made it to their destination, according to a criminal complaint filed by the Postal Service’s Office of Inspector General Tuesday.

Twenty of those envelopes were picked up by postal carrier Justin Lee Swanson, 28, according to the complaint. He was arrested on Monday on one count of mail theft matter by an officer or employee after he was caught leaving his post office with a priority mail envelope containing $800, the complaint states.

The envelope was a set-up or what the complaint referred to as “a live integrity test.” Agents with the Postal Service OIG gave the envelope, which contained an electronic tracking beacon, to the manager of Van Heusen, who gave it to Swanson.

“The target package was prepared exactly the same way Van Heusen prepared the previous 36 priority mail envelopes which were reported missing,” OIG Agent Susan Rivera wrote in the complaint.

Agents also placed a hidden video camera inside Swanson’s work car. Footage from the camera shows Swanson opening the envelope and looking inside as soon as he enters the vehicle, according to the complaint.

From the Van Heusen store, Swanson drove to the post office where he’s based. He went inside and came back out 20 minutes later and left work in his car.

Agents following Swanson noticed the tracking beacon inside the target envelope signaling from inside his car, according to the complaint. When agents stopped him, Swanson admitted to taking the bait envelope and a priority mail envelope from Van Heusen the week before.

It’s not clear from the complaint if Swanson is suspected in stealing the other 16 envelopes that went missing between November and late January or if any other mail carriers are suspects. A Postal Service OIG spokesman could not be immediately reached for comment Wednesday.

David Goodhue covers the Florida Keys and South Florida for FLKeysNews.com and the Miami Herald. Before joining the Herald, he covered Congress, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy in Washington, D.C. He is a graduate of the University of Delaware.
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