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article imageFormer letter carrier stole over $440,000 in tax refund cheques

By Arthur Weinreb     May 1, 2016 in Crime
Camden - A 47-year-old former New Jersey postal worker was part of a sophisticated conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government of money.
Earl Champagne appeared in Federal Court in Camden, New Jersey on Friday before U.S. District Judge Robert B. Kugler. The former letter carrier pleaded guilty to one count of theft of U.S. mail and one count of theft of government money. The total amount of monies stolen was over $440,000 although Champagne received less than $4,000 of the ill-gotten gains for his effort.
Champagne was employed by the U.S. Postal Service from 1995 to November 2014 and was assigned to deliver mail in Pennsauken, New Jersey. reported on Friday, the former mail carrier admitted to stealing 72 government cheques totaling $442,776. The thefts occurred between March and July, 2014.
According to Champagne, he was approached by two men who asked him to either steal cheques with "Spanish" sounding names or deliver the cheques and tell them where they were. The former mail carrier was paid $50 for each cheque; his total take was $3,600. The two individuals he was acting with have not been named.
According to the United States Attorney's Office, District of New Jersey, this was a Stolen Identity Refund Fraud (SIRF) scam. Perpetrators steal the identities of others and complete Individual Income Tax Return 1040 forms and fill out the forms with false information. The forms are completed to ensure a tax refund will be obtained. The refund cheques are then mailed to addresses the fraudsters can access. Once they get the cheques they deposit the refunds in bank accounts they control. It is not unknown for people running these schemes to bribe letter carriers in order to get the refund cheques.
There was a reason the people whose identities were stolen had "Spanish" sounding names. As the Courier-Post reports, residents of Puerto Rico have U.S. Social Security numbers but do not have to pay income tax on money earned on the island. If they have no income earned outside of Puerto Rico there is no chance they will learn of the fraudulent use of their identities.
It is estimated this type of fraud costs the U.S. government about $2 billion a year.
Champagne returns to court on Aug. 3 for sentencing. Each count carries the maximum punishment of 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
More about letter carriers, theft from mail, united states postal service, theft of government mail, Theft
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