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Prison time for ex-U.S. Postal Service supervisor who stole cannabis shows agency prepared to stamp out illegal activity

Oct 27, 2021
After Howard Kern’s prison time, the now-former U.S. Postal Service supervisor in Georgia Ga. will be subject to two years of (perhaps ironically) supervised release. The sentence follows Ke ...

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A 53-year-old postal service supervisor who admitted that he stole cannabis from a package that had been confiscated is set to spend the next two months in U.S. federal prison for the transgression.

After Howard Kern’s prison time, the now-former U.S. Postal Service supervisor in Georgia Ga. will be subject to two years of (perhaps ironically) supervised release. The sentence follows Kern’s guilty plea for theft of mail matter by a postal employee, which is a felony crime, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, South District of Georgia.

Cornel Law School reports the top penalty for the federal breach is a fine, imprisonment for up to five years or both.

Court documents and testimony indicate that while Kern was working at a post office in Brunswick, Ga. in August of 2020, a package suspected of containing marijuana arrived. It was put on a shelf in the postmaster’s office to await examination by a postal inspector, the district attorney’s office reports.

But management “later discovered the package had been opened and resealed, with the contents removed,” the statement notes. The incident was reported for further investigation.

After being questioned, Kerns admitted he had taken the package’s contents.

“Integrity of our U.S. mail is dependent on the honesty of postal employees,” David H. Estes, acting U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Georgia, says in the statement. “Howard Kerns is the rare exception of workers who fail that test, and is being held accountable for that failure,” Estes continues.

The vast majority of postal service workers “are honest, hardworking individuals who would never violate the public trust,” says Jonathan Ulrich, acting special agent in charge of the Southern Area Field Office. “An employee who decides otherwise will be aggressively investigated,” Ulrich adds.

The district attorney’s office did not note how much cannabis was stolen, but recreational marijuana remains illegal federally in the U.S. and also in Georgia.

Indeed, state law allows for up to a year in jail and a US$1,000 ($1,240) fine for those found possessing an ounce (28 grams) or less of bud for personal use, according to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). When over an ounce, the now felony charge can lead to one to 10 years in prison and a US$5,000 ($6,200) fine.

Possession with intent to distribute any amount of weed is always a felony, with prison time and fines increasing in step with higher amounts of the drug.

While plenty of people have been caught trying to send cannabis through the mail, including in Ireland, New Brunswick and Pennsylvania, the involvement of employees is far less common. That said, it does happen.

For example, a U.S. postman off-duty in his personal car in Memphis was recently found with his mailbag and hat, cannabis, US$1,700 ($2,108) in cash, a scale, “baggies labelled with a cannabis leaf,” a loaded gun and six fraudulent temporary tags, according to News Channel 3.

Human resources company SHRM cited a case involving a letter carrier in Chicago who was fired after a video showed him buying weed from the postal truck of a co-worker while on duty. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit upheld the employee’s termination, SHRM reports.

And in a bit of a twist, a former postal worker in Ohio blamed his old employer for him taking packages containing drugs, Dayton Daily News reported back in 2019. The former employee pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine.

Last year, an audit of the U.S. Postal Service revealed that more than 200 packages believed to contain cannabis had gone missing during internal shipments in 2019.

With regard to other breaches of postal service rules, jail time was ordered last month for another former postal worker in Massachusetts who was charged for allegedly stealing COVID-19 stimulus cheques and making fraudulent purchases and ATM withdrawals with stolen debit cards, IB Times reports.

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