Federal Prosecutions Resulting from U.S. Postal Service Investigations Hit Record Low
(31 Aug 2020) During the first ten months of FY 2020 the government reported that 1,200 new criminal prosecutions were filed from investigations led by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. If these prosecutions continue at the same pace, the annual total of prosecutions will be 1,440 for this fiscal year. However, this number represents a record low - the lowest number of prosecutions since systematic tracking began in FY 1986. In FY 1986 Postal Service investigations led to 3,647 prosecutions--over two and a half times the pace during FY 2020.

According to the case-by-case information analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University, this estimate is down 18.1 percent over FY 2019 when the number of prosecutions totaled 1,758. While some of the decline in FY 2020 may have occurred because of the COVID-19 partial court shutdown, prosecutions during the first half of FY 2020 before the pandemic hit were already lower than the comparable period in FY 2019.

Prosecutions over the past year are also considerably lower than they were ten years ago. Overall, the data show that prosecutions of this type are down 41.1 percent from the level of 2,444 reported in 2010 and down 47.5 percent from the level of 2,745 reported in 2000.

Three classes of offenses account for over five out of every six (85.9%) prosecutions where the type of offense was listed. Leading the list are what the Justice Department classifies as "postal crimes." Postal crimes accounted for one out of three (34.3%) prosecutions. The lead charges for these offenses, in descending order of occurrence during FY 2020, were: theft or receipt of stolen mail matter (18 USC 1708); theft of mail matter by officer or employee (18 USC 1709); delay or destruction of mail or newspaper (18 USC 1703); obstruction of mails generally (18 USC 1701); and misappropriation of postal funds (18 USC 1711).

The second most common class of offenses involved using the mail for the commission of a wide variety of different types of frauds. These accounted for three out of every ten (30.3%) offenses. A recent example is the arrest of Steve Bannon, who was charged with defrauding donors in a private effort to raise money for President Trump's border wall. The third class of offenses involved various drug trafficking crimes where use of the mail was involved. These accounted for one out of five (21.3%) prosecutions during FY 2020.

Relative to their populations, the District of Rhode Island had the largest number of prosecutions in the country, followed by the District of North Dakota and the District of Alaska.

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