- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 6, 2001

Several people who rent mailboxes at a post office in Southeast D.C. are wondering why they found sliced-open letters addressed to them in their boxes during recent weeks.
The U.S. Postal Service said the letters arriving at the Southeast Post Office Station at 600 Pennsylvania Ave. were opened "in error" and are the result of a misrouted tray of mail.
"There was no crime involved," said postal Inspector Doug Bem. "A tray of mail was misrouted to a customer who picks up mail at Southeast station on a daily basis. The error wasn't discovered until after the mail was opened."
But one man who keeps a post office box at Southeast for his nonprofit organization said on several occasions he's found slit-open envelopes; one had money missing from it.
"They're clean openings," said Frank Curran, of the World Federalist Association, at 420 Seventh St. "It looked to me like they were opened with a mail opening machine."
Mr. Curran's organization shares the post office box with another nonprofit group, the Campaign for United Nations Reform, which regularly receives donations and $30 membership checks.
Angela Kim, who manages mail for the organization, said the donation box on one opened envelope was marked, indicating there would be a check inside, but the check was missing. She is still trying to contact the person who sent the check.
Mr. Bem said any customer who finds opened mail in his box and contents are missing should contact the manager of the post office and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
Mr. Curran said he filed a complaint with a manager at Southeast who told him his was not the only complaint about opened mail last week.
"Nobody at this post office has admitted how the mail got opened or why it was opened or anything else," he said. "They're acting as ignorant about this as anyone else it isn't fair."
A supervisor at Southeast, speaking on the condition of anonymity, did not deny there were complaints about opened mail, but declined to comment further.
Mrs. Kim said at least five opened letters to the Campaign for United Nations Reform were in the box last week, and all of them had been postmarked twice. One letter had a Nov. 17 postmark from Frederick, Md., and a second had a postmark of Nov. 20 from Southern Maryland.
Another person who rents a box at Southeast, but wished not to be named, said she also found opened mail in her mailbox that was postmarked twice.
"I filed a complaint with the post office," the person told The Washington Times. "When I showed them the clean cut on a letter, they said, 'Oh, a machine must have slit it open. It's a mistake.'"
Postal Inspector Lori Groen said, "The way the letters were opened and the two separate postmarks would indicate the mail probably was mistakenly opened by a company and put back into the mail.
"But on rare occasions we have postal employees who may have pried into someone's mail," she said. "There may be an ongoing investigation into this, and there's a good chance postal authorities won't talk about it."
The Southeast station is one of more than 30 post offices in the District that got mail through the Brentwood mail processing facility in Northeast. Brentwood, which sorted anthrax-filled letters to Democratic Sens. Tom Daschle and Patrick J. Leahy, was shut down on Oct. 21 after two employees died of inhalation anthrax.
The Postal Service since has moved the District's mail sorting operation into a warehouse at 3070 V St. NE. The warehouse has been used as a holiday overflow facility during past years and now is handling mail that would have gone to Brentwood, including Southeast station's mail.
Mr. Bem said misrouting and opening of mail delivered to Southeast is "totally unrelated" to the anthrax attacks and the problems with Brentwood.
Almost all of the mail that was quarantined in Brentwood when the facility shut down has been decontaminated and "recirculated" into the mail flow through the V Street facility, according to Postal Service spokeswoman Deborah Yackley.
Mr. Curran said one day last week he found a stack of 20 letters in his mailbox that were postmarked in October, but none of them had been slit open.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide