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Postal Funds

18 U.S. Code § 1711 - Misappropriation of Postal Funds

Employees and officers of the United States Postal Service often do more than handle the mail—they also handle money. Just as these employees must follow strict mail handling rules, they are also highly regulated in handling postal funds. 

If you're a postal worker accused of mishandling, misappropriating, or embezzling for your use of funds that come into your hands during your job, you could be charged with a federal crime under section 1711. If convicted, depending on the amount of money you misappropriated, you could face up to 10 years in federal prison.

18 U.S. Code § 1711 - Misappropriation of postal funds

18 U.S.C. 1711 says, “Whoever, being a Postal Service officer or employee, loans, uses, pledges, hypothecates, or converts to his own use, or deposits in any bank, or exchanges for other funds or property, except as authorized by law, any money or property coming into his hands or under his control in any manner. 

In the execution or under color of his office, employment, or service, whether or not the same shall be the money or property of the United States; or fails or refuses to remit to or deposit in the Treasury of the United States or a designated depository, or to account for or turn over to the proper officer or agent, any such money or property, when required to do so by law or the regulations of the Postal Service, or upon demand or order of the Postal Service, either directly or through a duly authorized officer or agent, is guilty of embezzlement.

Every such person, as well as every other person advising or knowingly participating therein, shall be fined under this title or in a sum equal to the amount or value of the money or property embezzled, whichever is greater, or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both; but if the amount or value thereof does not exceed $1,000, he shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both.

What is a Summary of Section 1711? 

18 U.S.C. 1711 effectively criminalizes Postal Service embezzlement in all forms. As a Postal Service worker, if you misuse, take for personal use, or wrongly appropriate any money or property you handle during your job, you're committing Postal Service embezzlement. 

This is true even if the money in question does not belong to the government—for example, if you're handling a wire transfer for a customer.  Examples of misappropriation include, but are not limited to:

  • Depositing the money in your own bank,
  • Swapping the money for something else (i.e., a bond or certificate),
  • Not turning the money over to another agent/officer as instructed,
  • Lending out the money to someone,
  • Pledging the money,

This rule does not prohibit postal service workers from putting money into a Treasury-approved national bank as postal service workers. They're also allowed to handle money transfers or deal with debts as directed by the Postal Service, like moving extra funds between post offices. The law prohibits any unauthorized handling or transferring of funds through the USPS.

What Are the Elements of the Crime?

For prosecutors to convict you of misappropriating postal funds, they must prove the following specific elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • You were a Postal Service officer or employee at the time of the offense,
  • You committed an act of misappropriating funds coming through the Post Office in the course of your duties (e.g., you loaned, used, pledged, hypothecated, deposited, or converted the funds for your use and without authorization) or
  • You failed or refused to remit, deposit, account for, or turn over such money or property as required by law or Postal Service regulations or upon demand or order of the Postal Service.

What Are Some Examples?

EXAMPLE 1: A long-standing Postal Service employee, John, encounters financial difficulties. He decides to "borrow" money from the postal funds, intending to replace it once his personal finances stabilize. Although done without malicious intent, this action is considered a misappropriation of postal funds, and John can be charged under 18 U.S.C. 1711 even if he planned to return the money. 

EXAMPLE 2: Susan, a Postal Service officer, has been entrusted with managing office expenses for her branch. She inflates the costs in her expense report and pockets the difference, justifying her actions as a "perk" of her position. Susan has knowingly converted postal funds for personal use and can be charged under 18 U.S.C. 1711.

EXAMPLE 3: Darren receives cash from a customer at the counter to do an electronic money wire transfer. Darren skims $30 off the total cash amount and pockets it as his "fee." Although these funds aren't technically government or Postal Service funds, Darren can be charged with misappropriation under 18 U.S.C. 1711.

What Are the Related Federal Laws?

18 U.S. Code Chapter 83 Postal Service has several federal statutes that are related to 18 U.S. Code 1711 misappropriation of postal funds, such as the following:

  • 18 U.S.C. 1691 – Laws governing postal savings,
  • 18 U.S.C. 1692 – Foreign mail as United States mail,
  • 18 U.S.C. 1693 – Carriage of mail generally,
  • 18 U.S.C. 1694 – Carriage of matter out of mail over post routes,
  • 18 U.S.C. 1695 – Carriage of matter out of mail on vessels,
  • 18 U.S.C. 1696 – Private express for letters and packets,
  • 18 U.S.C. 1697 – Transportation of persons acting as private express,
  • 18 U.S.C. 1698 – Prompt delivery of mail from a vessel,
  • 18 U.S.C. 1699 – Certification of delivery from a vessel,
  • 18 U.S.C. 1700 – Desertion of mails,
  • 18 U.S.C. 1701 – Obstruction of mail generally,
  • 18 U.S.C. 1702 – Obstruction of correspondence,
  • 18 U.S.C. 1703 – Delay or destruction of mail or newspapers,
  • 18 U.S.C. 1704 – Keys or locks stolen or reproduced,
  • 18 U.S.C. 1705 – Destruction of letter boxes or mail,
  • 18 U.S.C. 1706 – Injury to mailbags,
  • 18 U.S.C. 1707 – Theft of property used by Postal Service,
  • 18 U.S.C. 1708 – Theft or receipt of stolen mail matter,
  • 18 U.S.C. 1709 – Theft of mail matter by officer or employee,
  • 18 U.S.C. 1710 – Theft of newspapers,
  • 18 U.S.C. 1711 – Misappropriation of postal funds,
  • 18 U.S.C. 1712 – Falsification of postal returns to increase compensation,
  • 18 U.S.C. 1713 – Issuance of money orders without payment,
  • 18 U.S.C. 1715 – Firearms as nonmailable; regulations,
  • 18 U.S.C. 1716 – Injurious articles as nonmailable,
  • 18 U.S.C. 1716A – Nonmailable locksmithing devices and vehicle master keys,
  • 18 U.S.C. 1716B – Nonmailable plant,
  • 18 U.S.C. 1716C – Forged agricultural certifications,
  • 18 U.S.C. 1716D – Nonmailable injurious animals, plant pests, plants, and illegally taken fish, wildlife, and plants,
  • 18 U.S.C. 1716E – Tobacco products as nonmailable,
  • 18 U.S.C. 1717 – Letters and writings as nonmailable,
  • 18 U.S.C. 1719 – Franking privilege,
  • 18 U.S.C. 1720 – Canceled stamps and envelopes,
  • 18 U.S.C. 1721 – Sale or pledge of stamps,
  • 18 U.S.C. 1722 – False evidence to secure second-class rate,
  • 18 U.S.C. 1723 – Avoidance of postage by using lower class matter,
  • 18 U.S.C. 1724 – Postage on mail delivered by foreign vessels,
  • 18 U.S.C. 1725 – Postage unpaid on deposited mail matter,
  • 18 U.S.C. 1726 – Postage collected unlawfully,
  • 18 U.S.C. 1728 – The weight of mail increased fraudulently,
  • 18 U.S.C. 1729 – Post office conducted without authority,
  • 18 U.S.C. 1730 – Uniforms of carriers,
  • 18 U.S.C. 1731 – Vehicles falsely labeled as carriers,
  • 18 U.S.C. 1732 – Approval of bond or sureties by postmaster,
  • 18 U.S.C. 1733 – Mailing periodical publications without prepayment of postage,
  • 18 U.S.C. 1734 – Editorials and other matters as advertisements,
  • 18 U.S.C. 1735 – Sexually oriented advertisements,
  • 18 U.S.C. 1736 – Restrictive use of information,
  • 18 U.S.C. 1737 – Manufacturer of sexually related mail matter. 

What Are the Penalties?

The penalties for misappropriation of postal funds can be severe, depending on the amount or value of the embezzled money or property. If you're convicted of this crime, you could face the following:

If the value misappropriated does not exceed $1000, it's considered a misdemeanor. You may face the following:

  • Up to one year in prison and
  • Fines of up to $100,000.

If the value exceeds $1000, it's a felony criminal offense. You could face the following:

  • Up to 10 years in federal prison and
  • A fine equivalent to the amount misappropriated, or $250,000, whichever is greater. 

What Are the Common Defenses?

If you're charged with a crime under 18 U.S.C. 1711, a skilled federal criminal defense attorney may employ several defense strategies to counter the charges. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Lack of Intent: You did not intend to misappropriate postal funds. This might involve proving that you believed you acted within your rights or had misunderstood your responsibilities.
  • Authorization: You had explicit or implied permission from superiors to use the funds as you did—or your actions were performed lawfully during your duties.
  • Mistake of Fact: You made an honest and reasonable mistake that led to the misappropriation. For instance, you may have erroneously believed the funds belonged to you due to a payroll error or similar circumstances.
  • Duress: You were forced to misappropriate the funds due to threats or coercion. For this defense to be successful, you must typically prove that you feared immediate harm if you did not comply.

Contact our law firm to review your case details and discuss the best legal options moving forward. Eisner Gorin LLP has offices in Los Angeles, California.

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