Some people with loved ones in Wisconsin may be missing some cash and gifts. A postal worker in Milwaukee, Ebonny Lavonne Smith, has admitted to stealing 6,000 greeting cards from unsuspecting post office patrons and stealing the money and gift cards inside.
USA Today reports that Smith, 20, has pled guilty to theft or receipt of stolen mail on September 12. She will receive sentencing for the crime at a later date.
Her subterfuge was discovered after a number of residents of Wauwatosa, WI reporter that they had not received expected gifts and mail for graduations, birthdays, and sympathy cards. The problem was discovered to be localized to areas within the zip codes of 53213 and 53226.
Smith was the mail carrier assigned to deliver in those areas. She started working for the post office in March of 2015 and in March of 2017 she was assigned to the route in Wauwatosa that included those zip codes. The court documents that detail how she was eventually caught can be found online.
Essentially, a test card was created. The envelope contained the greeting card and a $20 bill. What the average person (and Smith) could not tell was that the envelope contained a transmitter. The transmitter would communicate via a signal when it was opened. The card was placed with other mail destined for Smith’s route on January 25.
She was observed by others at USPS checking trays assigned to other routes, taking greeting cards, and putting them in her own trays. Then, she brought her mail for her delivery route, including the marked envelope, to her postal service vehicle. She went along as normal delivering her route, unaware that postal agents awaited her at one address.
When she arrived at the address printed on the test envelope, a signal was sent from the transmitter. The envelope had been opened – but the mail had yet to be delivered.
Smith was standing outside her car when postal agents approached. She was caught. The envelope no longer contained the $20 bill, and Smith revealed it to be in her purse. Officials also found 31 greetings cards in a sack in her vehicle, along with 23 cards and a Starbucks gift card on the floor.
Smith said she would steal greeting cards one or two times a week, and claims she was using the money to pay bills and support her four children.
A towed vehicle believed to belong to Smith was discovered in a Milwaukee auto salvage yard. It contained a huge bag of USPS mail. Inside that vehicle, authorities discovered nearly 7,000 First Class greeting card envelopes, 540 personal checks, and 45 unopened greeting cards.