Harvey Clark introduced our speaker, Terry Donnelly, Assistant Inspector-In-Charge of the Phoenix Division of the United States Postal Inspection Service. Postal inspectors are empowered to investigate any crime that involves the mail. In the Phoenix Division, which includes New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, and Utah, the majority of inspectors’ time is spent dealing with narcotics and mail theft.



Most of the drugs being shipped through the mail are coming up from Mexico: about 80% marijuana, then cocaine, methamphetamines, steroids, and others. If it’s illegal to possess, it’s illegal to mail. In Phoenix alone, Terry informed us, “We could easily take out 50-60 packages a day that contain narcotics.” With many of the packages going to other major cities and drug markets within the United States, one of the biggest problems is that mail carriers are being assaulted and often shot, because rival gangs know that a shipment is coming in and try to rip off the box before it gets to the intended recipient. “So, we try to take as much as we can out of the mail here in Arizona, but it isn’t as easy as it looks on TV. We have to get the US Attorney’s Office to approve writing a search warrant and we have to get a federal judge to give us a warrant for the box. So it takes a bit of time, effort, and storage to do that.” The Postal Inspection Service estimates that they are able to intercept between 6% and 8% of the drugs that are sent via mail.


Mail theft is also a big problem in Arizona, although California took over the “lead” as the worst state for mail theft about four or five years ago. Mail theft is also narcotics related as 98% of the people arrested for mail theft are meth addicts. The profile is a white male or female meth amphetamine addict, looking for checks, money orders, and packages containing anything they can sell quickly to pay for more drugs. “We’ve fought it so long and so hard here that we have a lot of the latest, greatest mail receiving technology here in Arizona. We’re doing everything we can to harden the targets.”


The third largest issue for postal inspectors in our area is mail fraud. Mail fraud is perpetrated by white-collar thieves; people who are using the mail to solicit money from others. Many of these operations work out of Jamaica; others are telemarketing scams. Senior citizens are the primary target.