(MCT) — CHICAGO—Sensing something was amiss, the Servants of Mary, a Roman Catholic religious organization, contacted the U.S. Postal Service when donations unexpectedly fell in the fall of 2010.
Not long after, the losses stopped, but then donors started complaining the following spring that their checks to the charity had gone uncashed.
That summer, postal agents targeted Fredrick Taylor,, a mail carrier, after spotting him pick up mail for the charity even though it wasn’t on his route. Agents confronted Taylor, found incriminating evidence on him and then discovered almost 30,000 envelopes with money intended for the Servants of Mary inside his home.
On Tuesday, in sentencing Taylor to 2 1/2 years in prison, U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve noted he had repeatedly abused the trust placed in him as a postal employee.
Taylor pleaded guilty in August to stealing more than $275,000 in cash, checks or money orders from the tens of thousands of letters addressed to the Servants of Mary, best known as the Servites,
After launching an investigation last year, the U.S. Postal Service’s Office of the Inspector General focused on employees working at a Berwyn post office, where the mail for the charity was processed, said Robert Rukes, a supervisor with the agency.
The agents then sent undercover mail to the Servites’ development office in Berwyn, only to find out the organization didn’t receive some of the envelopes, Rukes said.
Rukes said he was present on the day in August 2011 when he and other agents saw Taylor grab a handful of mail intended for the Servites even though it wasn’t on his assigned route for that day.
At the end of his shift, agents approached Taylor and found in his possession at least 30 pieces of mail meant for the Servites, Rukes said.
Taylor admitted to the thefts and told officials that he sometimes threw the mail away on his way home but mostly kept the items in his home, Rukes said.
An 11-year postal employee, Taylor agreed to let the agents search his house. In his bedroom, they found 29,400 envelopes stacked in 21 plastic garbage bags, Rukes said.
“He was very cooperative,” Rukes said. “He pretty much knew he was caught.”
Taylor stole the mail addressed to the Servites between August 2010 and August 2011, sometimes opening it inside his postal vehicle and other times keeping the envelopes inside his mail satchel until he put them in his personal car, according to court records.
Taylor told the agents he stole the money because he was broke, but he later added, “That’s no excuse,” according to Rukes.
The Servants of Mary did not return calls Tuesday for comment.
In a letter to the court, Taylor, a father of four who was fired from his job in October 2011, apologized to his family and the Servites for limiting “their ability to do the very important work that they do and give the help they provide.”
Officials said Taylor didn’t attempt to cash stolen checks totaling about $250,000 but pocketed the cash contained in the donation letters — $17,740 in all.
Taylor remains free on bond until he surrenders to prison on Feb. 21.
“The majority of our postal workers are hard working,” Rukes said. “This is...a serious crime and they have stiff consequences. That’s kind of what the sentence demonstrated.”