ATLANTA — A Channel 2 Action News investigation found drug dealers shipped more than 150 tons of opioids, cocaine, meth, and other drugs through the U.S. mail in the last few years. Nearly seven tons of it were headed to Georgia.
Channel 2′s Tom Regan looked into how the postal inspectors are working to stop these deadly deliveries.
The Postal Inspection Service has created a national task force to intercept illegal drugs in the mail. They work with federal and local law enforcement and prosecutors.
With so many illegal drugs pouring into the U.S. and Georgia, it’s an ongoing battle.
The postal service handles billions of pieces of mail and packages each year.
[HAVE A STORY FOR 2 INVESTIGATES?: Submit your tip here]
While inspectors screen the mail for illegal drugs, many thousands of pounds of drugs slip through and wind up on the streets in Georgia and across the country.
Sometimes it happens with the help of rouge postal workers.
“They were providing an avenue for the drug trafficker to receive their product,” said FBI Special Agent Ronald Miller.
Miller worked on a sweeping undercover sting investigation of metro Atlanta mail carriers accepting bribes to hand deliver packages of drugs to dealers.
“We learned that it was apparently not uncommon for drug traffickers to partner with a mail carrier that they can pay bribes to help them receive the drugs without being intercepted by law enforcement,” Miller said.
The FBI gave Channel 2 Action News surveillance photos of mail carriers involved in the scheme.
“So, instead of delivering it to the actual location, they would meet someplace off the side away from the delivery location, and exchange the package for a bribe payment,” Miller said.
MORE STORIES FROM 2 INVESTIGATES:
- Channel 2 Action News investigates whether plastic bags are being recycled properly
- ‘It becomes a bomb’: Company refuses to issue recall over millions of exploding airbags
- Critics call for more Level 1 trauma centers in metro Atlanta to handle mass casualty events
- Family says they’ve been living in metro Atlanta rental home with mold, trash behind walls for years
The drug mail corruption probe grew out of the DeKalb District Attorney’s Office.
An investigator learned of mail carriers suspected of acting as drug mules.
“Was working some cases and got some information that there may be some activity happening at the DeKalb post office, and so by bringing that information to federal investigators, we worked with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to take down that operation,” said Sherry Boston, the DeKalb County District Attorney.
Some 17 employees in 9 post offices were arrested. Most plead guilty. A judge sentenced the last defendant in March.
“But if you can disrupt the cycle, the distribution, figure out how it is being disseminated across the county or state and disrupt that cycle, then you really can take more illicit and illegal drugs off the streets,” Boston said.
Channel 2 Action News filed a Freedom of Information Act request and found between May 2020 and May 2022, postal inspectors in Georgia intercepted hundreds of pounds of illegal drugs, including 44 pounds of opioids like fentanyl, nearly 315 pounds of meth, and 98 pounds of cocaine.
Our analysis found most of the Georgia packages were heading to addresses in Atlanta, Savannah, Marietta, and Lawrenceville.
For some mail customers, that’s surprising to hear, but not to others.
“I think you need to develop a system which allows you to rapidly screen for that. And that’s difficult,” said Catherine, a postal customer.
The U.S. Postal Service is working with other agencies on drug intelligence and technology to crack down on drug shipments.
“We look at a lot of data, right? We look at past seizures. We look at ongoing cases, things that may link current cases to other parcels that may be out there,” said Daniel Adame, Inspector in Charge – Contraband Interdiction and Investigations at U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
Last year, postal inspectors seized nearly 84,000 pounds of illegal drugs.
“The U.S. Postal Service is not in the business of delivering drugs. And we want to, we’re going to do everything we can to stop that,” Adame said.
Postal inspectors said most of these illegal drug shipments come from Puerto Rico and the southwest border – California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas.
They send surge teams and extra resources to these areas to help stop the flow of drugs into our communities.
IN OTHER NEWS:
©2023 Cox Media Group