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A U.S. post office manager is facing upwards of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine after allegedly stealing $630,000 in stamps from a Louisiana post office.
Ryan Cortez, of Des Allemands, La., is accused of selling the stamps online and using the proceeds to gamble at a casino in New Orleans.
U.S. Attorney Peter G. Strasser announced the arrest of Cortez, who served as the manager of customer service operations at the North Kenner Post Office, last month. He was arrested by special agents with the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) for misappropriation of postal funds or property.
According to a criminal complaint affidavit filed in federal court, USPS OIG agents were notified by PayPal and eBay regarding significant quantities of U.S. stamps being sold by Cortez on eBay. A subsequent investigation revealed Cortez increased the Kenner North Post Office’s reserve stamp stock by more than $600,000. Subpoenaed records from Cortez’s bank account revealed substantial deposits, including more than $58,000 in a one-month period this summer.
During their investigation, USPS OIG agents learned Cortez, who earned an annual salary of $70,818, withdrew thousands of dollars at New Orleans’ Harrah’s Casino on a regular basis.
Harrah’s records also revealed Cortez lost more than $667,000 since 2011—and more than $220,000 in 2017 alone.
The criminal complaint also indicates Cortez embezzled thousands of dollars from the Des Allemands Mennonite Church in Des Allemands, La.
In total, postal records reveal Cortez stole more than $630,000 in U.S. stamps and sold them on eBay, constituting one of the largest internal postal thefts by a USPS employee in its nearly 50-year history.
If convicted, Cortez faces a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment followed by up to three years of supervised release as well as a $250,000 fine.