13 Investigates: Is mail being stolen inside a major Houston USPS facility?

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Friday, April 26, 2024
13 Investigates: Is mail being stolen inside a Houston USPS facility?
One woman thought sending her IRS check via certified mail was safe but she said it was cashed despite tracking showing it's still at a mail facility.

CHAPPELL HILL, Texas (KTRK) -- Chappell Hill resident Kim Grayden said when she watched our 13 Investigates report earlier this year on postal employees who had been found culpable of mail theft, she never thought anything similar to that could happen to her.

"You had a story on the news about this, and I always would think, 'Oh gosh, I'm so glad that hasn't happened to me.' And then bam, here it is on a certified letter, no less," Grayden told 13 Investigates' Kevin Ozebek.

Grayden said on Jan. 24, she mailed a quarterly check to the IRS to pay for her taxes. She even paid extra to send it via certified mail because she thought that would be the safest way to make sure someone at the IRS signed off on receiving the check.

Then, on Feb. 15, Grayden said she saw a pending payment in her bank account for an amount she didn't recognize.

When she looked at an image of the check on her bank's website, she realized the check number matched the one she sent to the IRS, but the amount on it was changed to $9,000.

"The check, when I opened it up, that's not my handwriting. None of this is my handwriting. Everything was different except for the date. None of the handwriting matched me," Grayden said. "It turns out that they even changed my signature."

She said she called her bank immediately, and they told her they were shocked because they'd never heard of a check being stolen through certified mail.

"My next phone call was to the U.S. Postal Inspector General, and nobody seemed to be surprised. It wasn't like, 'Oh my gosh, that's terrible,'" she said. "It was just like, 'What's your name? What's this, what's that?' Gave them all the information. They gave me a case number."

Now, three months after sending her check to the IRS using certified mail, her USPS tracking number shows the mail is still located at the North Houston Distribution Center.

But, because her check was fraudulently cashed, Grayden said she knows that's not true.

"It's an inside job. It's almost got to be, in my opinion," Grayden said. "Somewhere in that facility is where it was taken, and it never made it to the next step."

RELATED: Postal union says packages at risk as 600 USPS workers robbed last year

The North Houston Distribution Center is the same facility where, earlier this year, USPS had a meltdown as it upgraded equipment.

The center serves a population of 8.1 million people, according to a 2023 USPS audit that identified issues with delayed delivery.

Through a federal open records request, 13 Investigates learned the USPS Office of Inspector General has allegations of mail theft at this crucial distribution center.

A spokeswoman for the USPS Office of Inspector General said, "Due to the ongoing status of the investigations at the Oak Forest Post Office and the North Houston Distribution Center, the USPS OIG is unable to provide any additional information at this time."

Grayden said she's lost all confidence in USPS and will never use them again, especially for bills and taxes.

"When my daughter got married, we sent out wedding invitations. A lot of people didn't get theirs. ... I've sent out Christmas cards people have never gotten," she said. "I already told people you're going to be getting electronic Christmas cards from me going forward because as impersonal as that is, that's the only way I can ensure that they actually get what I send them."

Grayden said she filed a complaint with the USPS Office of Inspector General on Feb. 16 and when she asked if anyone would be in touch with her, they told her only if they needed more information.

She said she didn't hear back from them until the day after 13 Investigates asked the agency about her complaint.

"There's a lot of black holes that things are falling into and nobody's being held accountable. This has been going on for a long time. It's just really shown up here lately and it doesn't seem to be getting anywhere. Nobody seems to be doing anything," Grayden said.

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