Mail employee suspected of tampering

A GW Mail Services employee is suspected of opening students’ letters last month.

U.S. Postal Inspection Service officials are still questioning the employee – whom they declined to identify – and have yet to charge him with mail tampering. Tracy Schario, GW’s director of Media Relations, said the employee has been suspended and is “believed to have been fired” by Pittney Bowes, a private company that operates the mailroom. Pittney Bowes officials declined to comment on the employee’s status.

On Oct. 28, postal investigators received a complaint from Pitney Bowes that an employee may have illegally rifled through students’ mail, said Postal Inspector Chad Caviness, who is investigating the case. The next day, investigators identified the worker and brought him in for questioning. The incident is the second of its kind since Pitney Bowes began operating the mailroom several years ago, GW officials said.

Caviness said he “can’t really say what the employee took at this point” because he needs to talk to the students affected by the mail tampering. Schario said the employee opened birthday and Halloween cards, among other items.

“We don’t know exactly what was stolen because most of the cards have been opened,” she said.

No absentee ballots were among the illegally opened letters, Schario said. In the weeks before Election Day, several students who had not received absentee ballots accused mailroom employees of losing voting forms.

“We did thoroughly discuss that because I figured that people might make that connection,” Schario said. “But there were no absentee ballots involved with mail tampering.”

Last week, postal inspectors sent letters to 39 students who may have been affected by the mail tampering, asking them for their cooperation in the investigation. Few of the students have contacted postal officials as of Friday afternoon, Caviness said.

The investigation will not affect GW’s relationship with Pitney Bowes, which also began handling all student packages in fall 2002. Some students have complained about on-campus mail service, which they characterized as slow and unreliable.

GW Executive Vice President and Treasurer Louis Katz said mailroom officials may re-evaluate tampering safeguards following last month’s incident.

“They handled it quite appropriately,” he said, noting that the employee was caught a day after he was suspected of tampering. “Anytime something happens you have to evaluate what kind of controls would be put in place.”

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