Thirty-three people have been indicted after they allegedly stole mail, committed identity theft and even hoarded packages, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Los Angeles says. Most of the accused are U.S. Postal Service employees based in Southern California.

The crackdown follows increased reports of theft and other crime within the mail system in Greater Los Angeles. 

“Mail theft across Southern California has increased recently, which is significant since this type of crime tends to be a precursor to other crimes like identity theft and drug offenses,” said the U.S. Attorney in L.A., Eileen M. Decker. “As a result, we are stepping up enforcement activities, including dealing aggressively with corruption within the Postal Service.”

The suspects were charged via indictments returned by federal grand juries on Wednesday and Thursday, prosecutors said.

A Mid-City mail carrier, 48-year-old Norman A. Muschamp, is accused of delivering prepaid PayPal debit cards obtained via ID theft to co-conspirators, feds said. The cards were used for cash, they alleged. Sherry Naomi Watanabe, a 48-year-old carrier who worked a route in Placentia, allegedly hoarded 48,000 pieces of mail at her West L.A. home, prosecutors said. And 33-year-old Carol Garcia is accused of stealing mobile phones from packages at the Moreno Valley Delivery Distribution Center and traded them on a website, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. She took at least 166 phones, according to allegations in an indictment.

The charges also include conspiracy, embezzlement, bank fraud and making false statements, authorities said. Suspects who worked for U.S. Postal Service contractors, as well as defendants outside the mail system who allegedly conspired with carriers, also were charged.

“The overwhelming majority of Postal Service employees are honest and dedicated public servants who are worthy of our trust,” said Brian Washington of the USPS' Inspector General's office. “However, when employees engage in criminal activity, our agency will aggressively investigate these matters to protect the overall integrity of the Postal Service.”

LA Weekly