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Crimes for Mailing Drugs through USPS

Many people don't realize how frequently drugs are sent through the U.S. Mail or through a private shipping service such as UPS or FedEx. The attorneys at the Sammis Law Firm, in Tampa, FL, frequently represent clients accused of mailing or receiving drugs or other illegal contraband through the mail.

On April 3, 2014, Former Attorney General Eric Holder, explained the problem to the Senate Appropriations Committee:

“The postal service—the mails are—being used to facilitate drug dealing … It is shocking to see the amount of drugs that get pumped into communities all around this country through our mail system, and we have to deal with that.”

Postal inspectors in Florida and throughout the United States investigate the shipment of illegal drugs and other forms of contraband through the U.S. Postal Office. The postal investigators identify and prosecute major drug mailers. The USPS investigators also attempt to intercept illegal drug proceeds that traffickers attempt to send through the mail.

Never make a statement to any type of law enforcement officer until after you have retained an experienced criminal defense attorney. An attorney can contact the law enforcement officer on your behalf to present any information that might be helpful to your case.

Attorneys for USPS Drugs Investigations in Florida

The attorneys at the Sammis Law Firm in Tampa, FL, often get calls from people concerned about getting arrested for mailing or receiving cannabis, narcotics, or other contraband through the United States Postal Service (USPS) or other couriers such as UPS and FedEx in Florida. We represent clients throughout the State of Florida in these kinds of cases.

Many of our clients are completely innocent and need an attorney to explain their side of the story. We can help you fight to drastically decrease the chances that your rights are violated. We help our clients avoid an unjust prosecution at the state or federal level.

The Postal Inspection Service typically runs drug-mail investigations, but sometimes the DEA provides resources. In Tampa, an inspector is assigned to the DEA’s Narcotics Task Force. Cases in the Tampa Bay area are prosecuted in the Middle District of Florida, Tampa Division. An Assistant United States Attorney (AUSA) will prosecute some of these cases in federal court. 

Don't just wait for law enforcement officers to come to your home or office to interrogate you. By hiring an attorney, the attorney can prevent that kind of interrogation and represent you at every stage of the case.

Call (813) 250-0500 today.


Criminal Postal Investigations Can Begin with a Letter

Some of these investigations begin with a letter or phone call. A letter is sometimes sent while the mail is being withheld from delivery. The purpose of the letter is to inform the intended recipient that an item placed in the U.S. Postal Service mail stream is currently being withheld from delivery because there are reasonable grounds to believe its contents are non-mailable and possibly in violation of the Federal Controlled Substances Act. 

The letter is sometimes sent to the sender or recipient when other attempts to contact them to obtain additional information were unsuccessful. The letter provides the reference number, the sender, and the recipient listed on the package.

The letter will often invite the sender or the recipient to contact the manager of the Criminal Investigations Service Center if:

  • they do not understand the reason the letter is being sent to them;
  • they wish to discuss the matter and provide evidence that the mail does not contain non-mailable items; or
  • they wish to make arrangements for the sender to retrieve the mail piece.

The letter also tells you how to appeal the determination that the contents of the mail piece are non-mailable by filing a written appeal with the Recorder of the Judicial Officer Department of the U.S. Postal Service at the address provided. The appeal can also be filed at the following internet address: https://uspsjoe.justware.com/JusticeWeb. The letter explains that the appeal is governed by the Rules of Practice in Proceedings Relative to Mailability found in Title 39, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 953.

The letter also explains that if within twenty-one (21) calendar days of the date of the notice, no action is taken by the sender or the recipient (or their agent) to address the determination of non-mailability of the mail piece, it will be deemed abandoned or unclaimed pursuant to Postal Operations Manual, Section 691.584. 


Criminal Postal Investigations Can Begin with a Phone Call

Many of these investigations being with a call from an inspector with the law enforcement wing of the postal service. For packages shipped through UPS or FedEx, a local law enforcement agency at the state or local level might head up the initial investigation. In these investigations, the agent is calling to find out:

  • whether the person named on the package actually lives at the residence;
  • whether other similar items have been shipped to that location or that person;
  • whether the person named on the package was present at the time delivery was expected.

The agent is also calling to find out whether it is a good use of resources to go to the person's home or business to gather additional information during a face to face meeting. The goal of the face to face meeting is getting the person to admit that they were expecting a package and knew it contained the specific type of contraband found.

If you receive such a phone call and are worried about being caught up in the investigation, then your next call should be to an experienced criminal defense attorney. For cases in Florida and the greater Tampa Bay areas, contact us to schedule a confidential consultation to discuss the case in our offices.


USPIC Criminal Investigations at a Person's Home or Office

Depending on how those questions were answered, the agent might come out to the residence to conduct additional investigation. Individuals who readily answer questions over the phone are more likely to confess when confronted in person. Individuals who confess are much easier to prosecute than those who are likely to invoke their rights and hire an attorney.

In more serious cases, the investigation begins with a knock on the door. The agents often come to a person's home or business unannounced in order to catch them off guard.

Hiring an attorney is often the best way to protect your rights and prevent the officer from coming to your home or work to interrogate you during the earliest stages of the case. These agents want to question you BEFORE you have a chance to seek out a criminal defense attorney who can help you protect your right to remain silent. The agents know that getting a confession to a serious drug crime under state or federal law is more likely if you are surprised with a knock on the door.

Within the next few days after the investigation begins, agents might try to track down the person living at the residence or using the P.O. Box where the items are shipped in order to make an arrest. The agents can also investigate the payment methods used to ship the items. In some cases, the agents have been known to seek a warrant or otherwise begin monitoring your online communications or phone calls, especially when the investigation uncovers other suspicious information.

The agents might also be seeking information in order to obtain a search warrant to search your home or business looking for other evidence that can be used to prosecute you for serious offenses in state or federal court.

Once the investigation begins, the officers might attempt to monitor your communications, collect the trash out of your trash can at the curb, or use surveillance to see who is coming or going from your house.


Drugs Shipped Through the USPS First-Class

Many of these shipments are made with USPS first-class shipments. In fact, according to the USPS, “first class letters and parcels are protected against search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, and, as such, cannot be opened without a search warrant." Such fourth amendment prohibitions don’t necessarily attach to searches by private companies such as UPS and FedEx.

Although the United States Postal Inspector Service (USPIS) targets members of drug rings who use the mail to illegally traffic their product, they rarely catch those higher level players. Instead, they stumble across less experienced shippers of contraband. The vast majority of contraband shipped from USPS involves low-level participants. In fact, the vast majority of these cases involve a person sending a small amount of cannabis or marijuana concentrate through the mail.

Unfortunately, those types of amateurs with the least experience are the MOST likely to be detected and investigated. And when investigated, those inexperienced shippers are the most likely to forgo getting a criminal defense attorney and offer up a full confession when the agents knock on their front door. Don't compound one mistake with another when the investigation begins.

You have the right to remain silent under the 5th amendment and the right to the assistance of counsel under the 6th amendment. If you are the target of a criminal investigation, you should consider exercising both of those important rights at every stage of the case.


Types of Controlled Substances Mailed through the USPS

Some of the more common controlled substances mailed through the United States Post Office include the following items:

  • Marijuana
  • Amphetamine
  • PCP
  • LSD
  • Heroin
  • Cocaine

If you look only at marijuana seized in pounds each fiscal year by the US Postal Inspection Service, the following statistics have been released:

  • 42,160 pounds of marijuana in 2012;
  • 47,056 pounds of marijuana in 2013;
  • 39,291 pounds of marijuana in 2014;
  • 34,305 pounds of marijuana in 2015;
  • 36,000 pounds (approximately) of marijuana in 2016. 

Recent Statistics on Drugs Seized by the U.S. Postal Service

In FY 2001, Postal Inspectors arrested 1,662 individuals for drug trafficking and money laundering via the U.S. Mail. Seizures from the mail included more than 8,000 pounds of illegal narcotics and more than $3.5 million in cash and monetary instruments.

In FY 2008, which ended Sept. 30, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service showed that they arrested 1,118 suspects and seized $4.78 million in assets related to investigations of drugs found in the mail.

In FY 2013, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service reported that postal inspectors seized more than 46,000 pounds of illegal drugs and $20.7 million in drug-trafficking proceeds in the mail.

In FY 2015, the Inspection Service initiated 2,560 cases involving drug trafficking and made 1,898 arrests. From these cases, 1,785 criminals were convicted of the charges brought against them. Inspectors seized illegal assets valued at approximately $25 million. The Inspection Service also seized more than 34,000 pounds of marijuana and 1,100 pounds of cocaine.

In FY 2016, Postal Service inspectors seized mail containing more than 37,000 pounds of illegal drugs and $23.5 million in suspected drug-trafficking proceeds nationwide. More than 36,000 pounds of the drugs seized were marijuana.


Higher Level Federal Investigations for Drug Trafficking Operations

Federal investigations center around marijuana distribution, money laundering, and conspiracy to commit these crimes. Many of these investigations center around individuals using the United States Postal Service to ship pounds of marijuana in overnight packages. In some cases, the criminal organization will pay people to receive mailed packages containing marijuana or other contraband.

The packages are often shipped with fictitious sender and receiver names in a way that requires no signature for delivery. After the marijuana is received, other participants will then distribute the marijuana to local customers and deposit the proceeds into a bank account through businesses that front for money laundering organizations.

These cases are investigated by agents with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation, and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

The USPIS also investigates allegations of dealing and selling of narcotics by postal employees while on postal property or while on duty.


Additional Resources

The UPS List of Prohibited Articles and Items - Visit the UPS website to find a list of articles and items which are prohibited for shipping to the United States and all counties served by UPS including currency, bank bills, cash and marijuana (even for medicinal use).

CANNABIS 101 - Mailing Cannabis Through the USPS? - Find an article that discusses the number of people that attempt to get away with mailing cannabis through the United States Postal Service. Find out the penalties for violating the law.

Forensic Laboratory Services of the USPIS - The United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) uses forensic scientists and technical specialists at the National Forensic Laboratory in Dulles, VA, to identify, apprehend, prosecute, and convict individuals responsible for postal-related criminal offenses. Units of the Forensic Laboratory Services include the Questioned Documents Unit, The Fingerprint Unit, and the Physical Sciences Unit. The Physical Sciences Unit includes a Physical Evidence and a Chemistry section that provides scientific support to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service offices nationwide. Find out what happens when the USPS finds drugs, marijuana or cannabis.

Federal Law on Prohibited Mail Narcotics - Since controlled substance distribution is unlawful under 21 U.S.C. 801–971, then the mailing of any controlled substance through the U.S. Postal Service is also unlawful under 18 U.S.C. 1716. To legally mail controlled substances, the mailer and addressee must be registered with the DEA. For prescription medicines, when mailed by authorized dispensers as permitted by 21 CFR 1307.11 such as drug manufacturers or their registered agents, pharmacies, or medical practitioners.


Attorneys for Drugs / Contraband Being Shipped in the Mail

Once a criminal investigation begins for shipping drugs, marijuana, currency or other prohibited items through the mail or by common courier, you should contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to represent you.  

Your attorney can write a letter to the agent explaining that you are represented by counsel. That letter might prevent the agent from coming to your home or place of business to interrogate you about the facts of the case. Just invoking your right to counsel prevents the officer from asking you any questions about the case.

Your attorney can also contact the investigating officer to explain your side of the story if you are innocent of any criminal conduct. Your attorney can explain the reason that you didn't know that the drugs, marijuana, currency or other contraband was being shipped to your residence or place of business.

Many expect that as the dark net marketplaces grow, more people will be purchasing drugs and other contraband online. Those changes make it more likely that USPS and other common couriers will be used to ship the contraband being purchased. These buyers and sellers don't want to get caught.

The buyer often requests that the packages are sent to neighbors and unsuspecting friends, family and co-workers. The venders don't want the packages tracked back to them. From the return address to the way the postage is purchased, venders are becoming more sophisticated. Venders work hard to make the make the items in these packages look innocuous. 

If you are under investigation for either sending or receiving drugs or other contraband through the mail or a common carrier such as FedEx or UPS, then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at Sammis Law Firm in Tampa, FL, to discuss your case.

Let us put our experience to work for you. Call (813) 250-0500 today.


This article was last updated on Friday, June 22, 2018.