By Associated Press - Wednesday, February 27, 2019

KENNER, La. (AP) - A former manager of a post office in a New Orleans suburb has admitted to stealing more than $630,000 in stamps and selling them online to support his gambling addiction, prosecutors said.

Ryan Cortez, 46, pleaded guilty on Friday to misappropriation of postal funds in one of the largest internal postal thefts in U.S. Postal Service history, news outlets reported, citing a statement that U.S. Attorney Peter Strasser’s Office released Tuesday.

Cortez was a manager at the North Kenner Post Office. Authorities had a warrant to search the Des Allemands resident’s home in October and arrested him after they found evidence connecting him to the ordering of the stamps.

Investigators determined Cortez had increased the post office’s usual $70,000 in reserve stamps by more than $600,000. Internal controls had failed to detect the stamp thefts because he used another supervisor’s password to access the computer system.

The postal service began investigating Cortez when PayPal and eBay notified officials that he was selling “significant quantities” of stamps on the online auction website, court records say.

According to a criminal complaint, Cortez told special postal agents that he stole “hundreds of thousands” of dollars’ worth of stamps and sold them mostly to two buyers in Montana and New Jersey.

Cortez withdrew thousands of dollars regularly at the Harrah’s Casino in New Orleans, investigators said. Harrah’s records revealed he lost more than $667,000 since 2011, losing over $220,000 in 2017. Postal records show his annual salary was $70,818.

Cortez could receive up to 10 years in prison, followed by at most three years of supervised release, a $250,000 fine and a $100 fee. Sentencing is scheduled for May 30 in New Orleans federal court.

It is unclear if Cortez has a lawyer who could comment for him.

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