Breaking and Entering – Postal Style

October 22, 2013

By: Bobby Casey, Managing Director

usps breaking and enteringYesterday, I was chatting with a buddy of mine, “Frank”.  Frank lives in Iowa and runs a very successful company recycling hardware like computers, phone systems, servers, etc. for small to mid-size companies.

His clients hire him to collect the old equipment, recycle what they can and efficiently dispose of the remnants.  Of course he has to deal with sensitive data that remains on clients’ hard drives so he must maintain a secure warehouse to ensure privacy of this sensitive information.

It is a great business model and Frank has enjoyed much success over the years.  His company provides a very valuable service for his clients and Frank over delivers on his promises – exactly as a company should.

As you may imagine, Frank’s business is a very active shipper.  He used various shipping companies over the years including the US Postal Service.  However, he found the USPS to be unreliable and not competitively priced, thus he moved on to a different shipping service. 

Fast forward to last Friday.  Frank sent me the following email:

Ok, this just happened…15 min ago… a lady unannounced walks into the office section of our warehouse, says she is with the US Postal Inspection Service – my staff says you need to sign in – which she reluctantly does – I’m in a meeting so she is told she needs to wait for a few minutes then I can talk to her… she decides she is not waiting and opens the door to our warehouse and just walks back there…my staff finds her in our warehouse wandering around and tells her she needs to leave – she reluctantly moves back to the office area – where I am called out of my meeting to talk to her – she flashes an ID – could have been legit – I don’t really know what a US postal inspection ID should look like. She says she wants to go back into my warehouse and that we are using USPIS equipment without authorization… I said we are not allowing you back into our warehouse and that we don’t ship with the USPS so I’m not sure what she is talking about. I said bring back the sheriff and we can all go back and look around…as she was leaving, she said and I quote: “I don’t need the sheriff”… I guess I and my property are subject to inspection and unauthorized intrusion at any time by any government entity? Now this is real to me.”

Frank was livid.  This woman, a self-described US Postal Inspector, just took it upon herself to barge in to his secure warehouse without permission – without a warrant. 

The arrogant government worker felt she had the authority to go anywhere, and do anything she pleased because she was endowed with some state-given supremacy that made her lord and master over a private business owner and his property.

It seems every year the US government and its minions push the envelope with the liberties they take in the personal and business lives of private citizens. 

Running your own small business inside the US keeps getting more and more difficult on a daily basis.

Below, see Frank’s emails sent to “Bertha” from the USPS.

Dear Bertha,

Following your unauthorized entrance into our facility this morning, I felt it necessary to send you this email.

First of all, we do not let just anyone into our warehouse.  We are an insured data security site and as such we have rules that everyone has to follow.  You clearly overstepped your authority by opening the door and entering our private facility without escort.  We have video security for our records.

Please let me know what you are needing from us.  As at this point you have never made yourself clear as to your intentions, which also made us very uncomfortable with your intrusion.
That said, if you would like to schedule an appointment with me to tour our facility I would be happy to set that up.

Regards,

Frank

Bertha’s response:

Frank,

The US Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) is the law enforcement arm of the US Postal Service (USPS), with authority over all USPS funds, employees, facilities, property and use of the mails.  The theft or misuse of postal equipment is a violation of federal law, specifically Title 18 USC 1707, which carries a $1,000 fine and three years imprisonment.

As I told both you and your secretary, my visit was intended to simply secure the return of USPS equipment without official action on the part of the USPIS.  According to your own admission your company does not mail with the USPS, so possession of USPS equipment, and certainly its use for storage in your warehouse is misuse.  Your refusal to return USPS equipment would solidify your intent to deprive the USPS of said property and would constitute theft.

To resolve this matter, please immediately pull all USPS equipment and make it available for retrieval.

As you can see from this email, Bertha has made it clear the USPS has its own law enforcement agency and that Frank’s business is obviously under her authority.  She has now threatened Frank’s with fines and jail time for his alleged possession of USPS equipment. 

Frank’s reply:

Dear Bertha,

We will certainly do so… I’m assuming you are talking about a few USPS totes we may have?  Ummmm ok…

However, let me make a few suggestions:

1. Call and make an appointment

2. DO NOT EVER just enter secure areas of a private business

3. Explain clearly to the proper personnel what you need

And while we are reciting the law – you should be aware:

“Under Iowa Statute xx-xxxx, it is unlawful to access or attempt to access another person’s computer, computer network, software, programs, systems, services, data, property or computer-related documentation without the owner’s consent. Computer trespass is a Class A nonperson misdemeanor and punishable by up to one year in jail.”

I will be back in touch when, and if, we find any of your totes.

flat_tubsFor those of you unfamiliar with USPS totes, they are the white boxes with ‘US Postal Service’ printed on the sides of them used to carry mail.  Businesses with high mail volume are given these totes by the USPS to keep all mail in one place. 

So if you go back and reread Frank’s recollection of the event as well as the email trail between Frank and Bertha, you will see that Bertha assumed Frank’s company was in possession of white boxes with ‘US Postal Service’ printed on them.  She accused him of theft, threatened him with fines and jail time, and broke into his secure warehouse, all without any evidence whatsoever that Frank’s company was actually in possession of these highly prized white boxes. 

The issues here are almost beyond description. 

First of all, a government agency that cannot EVER manage to be self-funded and is the epitome of inefficiency somehow managed to take inventory of their stack of white boxes?  WTF?!

Secondly, they had no evidence that Frank’s company ACTUALLY was in possession of these white boxes, and yet thought it necessary to spend taxpayer dollars to send their enforcement agent out to break in to a private business to see if they did in fact have them.

Thirdly, the government parasite actually broke in to Frank’s business where clients’ private data is stored and handled. Who knows if she grabbed a hard drive lying around?

Finally, her arrogance is truly unmatched in the private sector.  Only a government worker can be so arrogant to assume they have the ability to do what they please without negative consequences. 

Personally, I am appalled by what Frank had to endure, but certainly not surprised.  Every day it gets harder and harder to run a small business in the US.  I don’t see it getting any better in the short term. 

I would highly encourage each one of you reading this article to take the necessary steps to ensure you and your family’s financial future.  Move some money offshore.  Buy some real estate in a foreign country.  Invest in precious metals.  Secure residency and possibly a 2nd passport in another country.  Do whatever it takes to ensure you are not under the thumb of any one government, especially if that government is the US.

As with Frank’s case, he has suffered a minor inconvenience.  But what about the next time?  What if the offended postal inspector decides to make an example out of Frank?

She has the power to arrest him.  Freeze assets.  Seize bank accounts.  And ultimately destroy his business and financial future. 

What about the next government agency that decides YOU have broken some arbitrary law and encumbers you and your business until you prove them wrong?  Will you be able to survive a financial attack from the US government?

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Comments

  1. He needs a fob system for his warehouse that records which badge was used at what time to enter and leave the secure area.

    It’s not a perfect system, but it makes such ‘casual’ intrusions much harder.

  2. Jay Jacobs says

    Bobby,

    “Frank” needs to be careful. The Inspector’s visit is clearly NOT abouthe retrieval of “postal totes,” which have NO VALUE because they are all cracked/broken.

    Have Frank sanitize his warehouse/office so all is tight when the Gestapo returns They ALWAYS return.

  3. Kimberly Stancil says

    Mr. Casey,

    This article was a good warning of dangers that business owners may face. However, while the USPS is still heavily protected by law, they have not been subdisized by the US government for a long time. This is one of the reasons why they have so many funding problems–taxpayers dollars are no longer propping up their declining business model.

  4. A similar thing happened to our business in Washington DC, A girl armed with a camera, and a badge stating she was from The District OSHA Dept. started taking photos of out building and dock areas. I stopped her and after a short discussion, I took her camera and removed the film from it and exposed it to sunlight. She told me I could go to Jail for that, but I am still here, never heard another word from either the District or Federal OSHA
    We were a paper recycling facility. There were suposedly many safety infractions that we could be fined for, which told me that she was just a meter maid in disguise looking for cash.

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