The case began at Sacramento International Airport on June 1, when a postal inspector was told several trays of U.S. mail that arrived on an American Airlines flight looked like they had been tampered with.
The straps that hold the mail in the trays had been broken off, and the letters inside looked as though they had been rifled through and were out of order.
By using hidden cameras, mailing fake letters, digging through trash cans and executing search warrants, postal officials say weeks later they arrested three workers on suspicion of an inside job at the airport that intercepted dozens of greeting cards with checks and gift cards that never reached their intended recipients.
The three suspects were booked into the Sacramento County Jail on charges of theft and possession of stolen U.S. mail and, following a brief hearing in federal court Wednesday afternoon, ordered released on $25,000 bond. U.S. Magistrate Judge Allison Claire ordered each to return for a preliminary hearing on Aug. 8. Each faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
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Raymond Hing Su, 29, of Sacramento, Domingo Kapuni Ene, 27, of Roseville and Joshua Fine Hopoi, 22, of Sacramento were employees of Envoy, a contractor at the airport that handles mail coming in and flying out on American Airlines planes, court documents say.
Criminal complaints and affidavits unsealed Wednesday say the airport mail thefts have occurred “on numerous occasions between April and July 2018” and that hidden camera surveillance began on the loading dock area June 6.
Video showed suspects appearing to conceal stolen mail inside sweatshirts, safety vests and other clothing and rifling through trays of mail, according to court documents.
On June 21, postal inspectors set their first trap, sending a white Hallmark greeting card envelope through the system with a $20 Walmart gift card tucked into a graduation card.
The card never arrived at the address to which it was sent, and inspectors could not find it anywhere in the mail loading area. They also could not tell from the video whether it had been stolen, court documents say.
But the gift card was used a week later at a Union City Walmart, where store video showed a man who looked like Ene leaving, court documents say.
The next test came June 29, with inspectors sending a bright yellow Hallmark greeting card envelope through the system with a $20 Home Depot gift card inside.
The test mail was placed under several other trays of mail that were to be shipped out June 30, and video showed Ene looking around to see whether any other workers were nearby, then tucking a bright yellow envelope into the left pocket of his shorts, court documents say.
“The yellow envelope never arrived at the address on the envelope,” the documents say.
By then, postal officials received a complaint from a victim in Illinois who had mailed a $50 Amazon gift card to someone in Redding that arrived with a greeting card torn in half and the gift card missing, court documents say.
Amazon records show that the card was used by Ene’s Amazon account to purchase a $155 LoveBling 10-karat yellow gold necklace, court documents say.
“Additional Amazon records indicate there have been 14 gift cards registered to Ene’s Amazon account since August 9, 2017, for a total of $620,” court documents say. “Envoy employment records indicate that Ene started work at Sacramento Airport on June 2, 2017.”
Inspectors then began their “trash runs,” sifting through garbage outside Hopoi’s home on July 9 and recovering two gray plastic bags.
“Each bag contained over 50 greeting cards and envelopes addressed to people throughout the nation for a total of approximately 113 greeting cards,” court documents say, all of them opened.
“There were multiple envelopes that contained checks and money orders, which were thrown away with the contents,” the documents say, adding that the amounts ranged from $25 to $3,216.
A second trash run on July 11 at Su’s address found 10 gift cards or portions of them, the documents say.
The three were arrested by officers from the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and booked into jail Tuesday afternoon, jail records say.