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5 USPS crimes investigated by postal inspectors which included the 'Black Hand Gang', Charles Ponzi and more

5 USPS crimes investigated by postal inspectors which included the 'Black Hand Gang', Charles Ponzi and more

Since it was established in 1775, the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), which was founded by Benjamin Franklin, has been investigating mail-related crimes.

Just last year, there were a reported 4,728 arrests made and 4,103 convictions related to postal crimes, according to the U.S. Postal Service. Most of these crimes fell into the categories of mail theft, assaults and robberies of employees, mail fraud as well as prohibited mailings, according to the source. 

There are numerous types of crimes that are investigated by the USPIS annually, which are included but not limited to counterfeit stamps, identity theft, cybercrime, child exploitation and suspicious mail. 


Over the years, there have been many high-profile crimes investigated by the USPIS, including the ones listed below. 

In 1909, postal inspectors investigated the "Black Hand Gang," a group of criminals that extorted money from victims by means of sending threatening letters. They were considered the first organized crime ring in America.

These letters threatened arson, kidnapping and murder if the ransom was not paid, according to the USPIS. 

There were 14 individuals who were arrested and convicted in this case, according to the source. 

The father of the illegal pyramid scheme, Charles Ponzi, was arrested in 1920.

Ponzi began his financial scheme when he discovered International Reply Coupons, which were created in 1906 by the International Postal Union, according to the Postal Museum. 

These coupons could be bought in one country and then redeemed in another for the equivalent value of that country's stamps, according to the source.


Ponzi came to the determination that these coupons bought in European nations had higher value in the United States. This led him to the idea of buying and re-selling. He used the money he got from his new investors to pay off the old ones, according to Investopedia. 

With the help of a few investors, who he promised a 50% profit in 45 days, Ponzi began the illegal scheme.

In 1920, he was arrested for mail fraud.

In 1921, Gerald Chapman and Dutch Anderson robbed a U.S. mail truck in New York City.

They went through the mail in the truck and got away with over $2.4 million in cash and goods, according to the USPIS. This would have a value of over $41 million today. 

It took many months for postal inspectors to finally track down the criminals, but on July 3, 1922, they were caught. 

They ended up escaping prison and went back to engaging in crime. Chapman killed a police officer named James Skelly on Oct. 12, 1924, according to the National Postal Museum, and was arrested in January the following year. He was executed on April 26, 1926, according to the source.

Anderson was caught on Oct. 31, 1925, according to the source, but was killed in a gunfire exchange.

Brothers Roy, Ray and Hugh robbed a mail train in 1923. 

This took place in southern Oregon as the train was leaving a tunnel, according to the National Postal Museum. 

The door was blown open using dynamite and a detonator, the source explained, but it caused a lot more damage than expected.


The mail clerk, Elvyn Dougherty, was killed, the car above was completely destroyed and most of the mail was ruined, according to the source. 

The brothers shot the conductor of the train as well as the engineer and fireman. This gruesome crime led to a nearly four-year manhunt. 

Hugh was the first to be arrested in February 1927 while he was serving in the Army under a false name, according to the National Postal Museum, but he claimed to have no knowledge of the whereabouts of his brothers. 

Ray and Roy were arrested a few months later, with the media telling of Hugh's capture. 

All three brothers were sentenced to life in prison. They all received parol, starting with Hugh in 1959, Ray in 1961 and Roy in 1983, according to the source.

In 1996, the "Unabomber," Ted Kaczynski, was arrested after a 17-year investigation. 

His first homemade bomb went off in 1978 at a university in Chicago, according to the FBI.

In the years following this initial bomb, Kaczynski delivered bombs both by hand and by mail that killed three Americans and injured many more. 

When he was arrested on April 3, 1996, investigators found bomb components, 40,000 journal pages filled with bomb-making experiments, descriptions of crimes as well as a live bomb that was prepared to be mailed, according to the FBI.


Another big case that involved the USPIS was in 2018, when homemade bombs were sent through the mail across the United States to prominent Democrat targets in Congress and the media.

In 2019, Cesar Altieri Sayoc admitted to mailing 16 improvised explosive devices to 13 people around the country, according to the Department of Justice.


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