Federal prosecutors in Southern California have charged dozens of postal workers and others with theft, fraud and other crimes — including a mail carrier who allegedly hoarded 48,000 pieces of mail.
The U.S. attorney's office announced Friday that it has charged 33 people with theft, possession of stolen mail, conspiracy, embezzlement, bank fraud, making false statements and use of stolen credit cards.
One case alleges that a former Mail Handlers Union executive stole more than 150 mobile phones at a distribution center in the Moreno Valley and traded them through a website.
Another charges that a Los Angeles mail carrier was involved in a scheme that created pre-paid PayPal debit cards using stolen identities. Prosecutors say the scheme caused hundreds of thousands of dollars in losses.
A third case alleges that a postal carrier from delayed mail delivery by hoarding more than 48,000 pieces of mail at her home. In another case, a worker allegedly stole mail that contained veterans' medication.
U.S. Attorney Eileen Decker said in a statement that mail theft, which has increased significantly across Southern California recently, is a precursor to other crimes such as identity theft and drug offenses.
"The mail system plays an important role in our country's commerce and social communication," she said. "Maintaining its integrity is vital. As a result, we are stepping up enforcement activities, including dealing aggressively with corruption within the Postal Service."
U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General Special Agent in Charge Brian Washington said most Postal Service employees are honest and dedicated.
"However, when employees engage in criminal activity, our agency will aggressively investigate these matters to protect the overall integrity of the Postal Service," he said.
According to the United States Postal Service's Office of Inspector General, OIG special agents completed 781 official misconduct investigations, resulting in 52 arrests, 34 indictments, 65 convictions, 622 administrative actions, and $766,500 in recovered funds for the Postal Service in fiscal year 2015.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.