U.S. mail system a “safe” way to ship marijuana?
Shipping drugs through the U.S. mail system
Shipping drugs through the U.S. mail system
MILWAUKEE (WITI) — A lot of crazy things have happened under the “Golden Arches” recently.
In April, a topless mom trashed a McDonald’s in Florida, even pausing her rampage to guzzle some soft serve out of the ice cream machine.
In Norway one man w
as ‘lovin’ it’ so much he branded himself with a McDonald’s receipt.
Back in Milwaukee, a man from Whitefish Bay named Ed Patterson said he just wanted to follow in his family’s footsteps. So, early last year, he bought his neighborhood McDonald’s — the same store his father had owned when he was just a boy.
In 2012 the Drug Enforcement Administration started investigating what they would later call the Patterson Drug Trafficking Organization.
Patterson operated three McDonald’s restaurants in Fox Point, Mequon, and Glendale. Federal authorities say he used his fast food empire to launder drug money and conceal his most lucrative business: marijuana.
Patterson and his buddies were arrested last fall, and the criminal complaint that followed shows how he was able to use the United States Postal Service to ship hundreds of thousand of dollars of pot from Mendocino County, California to Wisconsin.
“The price usually doubles or triples once it goes from there to here to Wisconsin,” says Jeffrey Zientek, a canine handler for the West Allis Police Department.
An informant told police Patterson had decided to start what he called the “mail thing” after some of his crew had been pulled over with weed in their cars on their way back from California.
“People are now more afraid to transport it by ground,” Zientek says.
So Patterson started mailing the pot home for about $10 a pound. Because the parcels couldn’t be too heavy, he’d only put a few pounds of pot in each package. During the Fall of 2012, he was allegedly shipping nearly 60 pounds a month, or roughly $250,000 worth of weed — for the cost of postage.
“You are playing the odds. Yes, you might get away with it one or two times, but you will eventually get caught,” Zientek says.
Zientek and his dog, Sonny, help law enforcement agencies all over Southeast Wisconsin try to weed out packages full of, well, weed.
‘The wackiest is somebody taking duct tape, silver duct tape, and taping their box together from California or something,” he says.
“And the box literally without even going near it with a canine you can smell the narcotic seeping through the box itself.”
He says shipping drugs through the mail is probably safer than it should be. For one, law enforcement doesn’t have the resources to try to figure out where the drugs came from and who’s expecting them.
“It takes a lot of man hours to figure something like that out,” he explains.
So if it’s not an easy case to crack, he says, local law enforcement agencies just seize the package and move on. Nobody gets arrested and nobody gets the drugs.
In April, Senator Lisa Murkowski from Alaska called Attorney General Eric Holder to task on the issue during budget meetings.
“We are being beat on these issues and the impact to our communities again, utilizing legal processes to get these drugs in that are in many cases wiping out families. We need some assistance here,” she said.
“The drugs are coming into the community through the mails.”
The Attorney General agreed, but didn’t offer a solution.
“It is shocking to see the amount of drugs that get pumped into communities all around this country through our mail system,” Holder said.
“We have to deal with that. It’s a major problem that we have to deal with.”
But it’s unclear how it’s currently being dealt with. For example, the FOX6 investigators have collected dozens of search warrants. In all of the cases, it was found, police officers got permission to search suspicious packages and drugs were in fact found inside.
But a search of state and federal records shows no arrests were made in connection with the packages. The boxes were opened, and the drugs were found, but it seems nobody got in trouble. If drugs are shipped through the U.S. mail, as opposed to a private courier, a federal search warrant is required before a package can be opened.
“We are doing all we can to make sure the mail is safe,” says U.S. Postal Inspector Brian Haraway.
He says the Postal Service knows the mail is being used to transport all kinds of drugs, but they don’t know how often people are being caught.
In 2013 U.S. Postal Inspectors seized about 9,000 packages of marijuana that had been sent in the mail. That’s 20 % more than the year before.
But Haraway says there’s no way of telling how much pot actually made it through safely.
Patterson and his crew were never caught on video at any mail facilities, but investigators say records show that between April 2012 and September 2013, at least 35 packages of marijuana were shipped from California to Milwaukee by U.S. Express Mail. The return addresses were imaginary.
According to the criminal complaint,
Patterson said he wanted to make a $2 million profit before marijuana becomes legalized nationally.
And with the help of the United States Postal System, federal investigators say he was able to successfully ship somewhere between 200 and 800 pounds of marijuana before getting caught — easily a $1 million dollar business.
“Eventually you will get caught. If you send once or twice and get lucky, but the famous saying is ‘they have to get lucky all the time and law enforcement only has to get lucky once,'” Zientek says.
Patterson’s trial was supposed to start May 5, but it’s postponed so the parties can reach a plea deal.
U.S. mail system a “safe” way to ship marijuana? Shipping drugs through the U.S. mail system Shipping drugs through the U.S. mail system MILWAUKEE (WITI) — A lot of crazy things have
Is Sending Marijuana Through the mail safe and legal?
The 241st anniversary of the United States Postal Service or USPS occurred on July 26, 2016. It is easy to
Marketeering Group / Flickr
The 241st anniversary of the United States Postal Service or USPS occurred on July 26, 2016. It is easy to spot an employee of any postal service a mile away and with the USPS, there is a lot about this agency that most people don’t even know. If someone wanted to mail marijuana to someone they know, do they even recognize the risks of it? Many also don’t realize that postal inspectors are in on the country’s battle against illegal drugs. They are involved in investigating and prosecuting people who mail out drugs, including cannabis. What remains a mystery is the number of parcels mailed out each day, week, month, or year that actually contain marijuana. With the penalties and risks involved, it’s surprising that something like this is such a constant battle for the postal inspectors to deal with. Though it’s not as frequent as it once was, it still happens often enough to talk about it. Are there people out there that know how to cheat the system and getting away with it?
The Problem Of Drug Trafficking
Within the Dark Net, there are numerous groups and activities that people are involved in. To get illegal drugs sent to you, it would be no more than a couple of mouse clicks away. The Dark Net markets are hidden, much like drug dealers in real life like to stay on the down-low. But the reality is, these Dark Net drug dealers are not immune to the way that everyone else ships their packages and parcels. Eric Holder, who is the former attorney general, stated that the problem is huge and that the postal service is being used to facilitate drug dealing. He went on to say that it is quite a surprise to witness the number of illegal substances that are shipped through the mail system and that they are the ones that have to deal with that.
Leafly has reached out to the postal service in an attempt to gain more information surrounding their regulations on illegal substances like marijuana being sent through the mail. The postal service replied that it is their duty to rid the mail system of illegal drugs and that they go after traffickers that attempt to ship all types of illegal substances, cannabis included. Cannabis still remains illegal under the Controlled Substances Act, which makes it illegal to be mailed out. The narcotics program is the one in charge of disrupting drug traffickers and to control the shipping of substances that should not be shipped via mail.
Under local law, marijuana possession can still be legalized in states, but outside the limits, it is still a federal crime. There are over a staggering 200 different laws that surround the U.S. mail and are controlled by the USPS. It is one of the oldest law enforcement agencies in the country. Postal workers are even considered to be federal agents just like many others in the country. It is their duty to protect what goes through the mail benefit the customers who use it. Each year, there are over 1,000 people arrested by the postal inspectors for shipping drugs through the mail and trying to launder money in the same way. Postal inspectors have also used laws to seize houses, all sorts of vehicles, and other very expensive items that have been purchased through the use of money made from drugs. It is their job to search and inspect packages for illegal substances on a daily basis, so unless you know the system better than someone that does it all day every day, you are taking a big risk. It is no doubt that the biggest reason why people use the mail system for sending out drugs is that it is convenient and simple. Instead of traffickers having to drive hundreds of miles and risk getting caught with drugs, they just choose a different risk and attempt to send it through the mail.
What Are The Stats On Mailing Cannabis And Other Illegal Substances?
Instead of the old fashioned way of driving marijuana to people, it makes sense why people have resorted to shipping it through the mail. The USPS has tried to crunch some numbers on just how much data is out there regarding the trafficking that is occurring. They managed to get some data through the years 2012 to 2015. In the first year, it was revealed that postal inspectors found over 40,000 pounds of cannabis through 7,600 different packages. Through the second year, there were 2,622 arrests conducted for mailing illegal substances, and that was up over 300 from the previous year.
Cannabis was the most popular drug that was shipped and captured through the mail by postal inspectors. This came to 68 percent of nearly 14,000 drug seizures in 2013. Only the year before that, it was 2,000 less. This resulted in 20 percent more packages being intercepted than 2012. In 2014, there was a little decrease in the levels of cannabis that was intercepted through the postal system. It might come to no surprise that 2014 was also the year that Washington and Colorado were open to licensed recreational cannabis stores. Through 2015, it seems to have carried over as well and resulted in a consistent drop in the number of cannabis-related parcels that were seized. It amounted to just over 34,000 pounds.
The specific and exact numbers of overall seizures and interceptions are extremely difficult to pinpoint exactly, mostly because the postal service probably isn’t one to be advertising these numbers on a daily basis. One must wonder if it is a coincidence that the levels have dropped right when the few places decided to legalize. In the past, legalization was thought to encourage things being passed through the black market. Though the temptation to even have the black market included is kind of diminished when things start to become regulated and not worth the inherent risks of shipping it.
Why Even Chance Mailing Marijuana?
What’s the point of even risking the chance of getting caught by mailing cannabis then? Is a little convenience worth the risk of getting charged with a felony? Just like with all crime, people will take their chances whether they realize the penalty or not. The biggest concern to legalizing cannabis in certain places is that it could take over and become rampant. When cannabis is controlled and regulated, it could be much safer than acquiring it from a drug dealer hustling the streets. With it regulated, you know where you are getting it from, can rely on the source, and know that it won’t be laced. Mailing cannabis is a much easier and safer alternative. Getting a bad batch of cannabis from a drug dealer could have detrimental effects. Legal marijuana is doing a good job of slowing the drug war. But it’s still mostly coming from Mexico. The benefit to that is that it’s creating employment for people down there. The climate in Mexico is favourable for growing cannabis, and this is a huge reason why most of it is from there. Because of the change in recent laws, many people have even got up and moved to places where it is now legal. Cartel imports in Mexico have decreased as a result. The seizure of marijuana hit an all-time high in 2009 at 4 million pounds. Ever since then, it has been steadily decreasing. Because the USPS is in financial trouble over the course of the past decade, they could probably use the extra support that mailing cannabis could do for it. A lowering of 56 billion parcels through first-class mail in the past decade has been reported. 56 billion parcels is a lot of income that could have potentially been generated by USPS. The rise of private courier companies has also contributed to this deficit.
On the financial side of things, they have racked up $47 billion of losses since 1971. They always talk about being on the brink of collapsing, and that could cause tons of job loss for people. This is no small number. Nearly any company in the world would crash if they had losses of this amount. This is why one must wonder if they are investing so much money in disrupting the mailing of cannabis, why not make up for their losses by allowing it? People are going to get their hands on it anyway, one way or another. Asking if you can get away with sending cannabis through the mail is comparable to asking if you can get away with walking out of a store with a stolen laptop. Both are considered criminal offences and both contain a certain degree of risk.
Utilizing Different Mail Carriers To Ship Marijuana
A fair number of private carriers exist outside of USPS. FedEx, DHL, and UPS are the biggest ones. Some people considering these alternatives might think that these private companies could offer a measure of protection from governmental inspection and seizure. Unfortunately, for these people, it is still a negative on that one. These companies hold the right to inspect packages if they so choose. For people shipping drugs, people actually prefer USPS because it considers the fourth amendment protection on a higher level. A search warrant is required before going in and opening up suspicious parcels. According to the fourth amendment, letters and parcels are protected from search and seizure. By leaving your package with a private company, the supreme court has stated that you are leaving your package and its privacy in the open. In 2014, the U.S. Department of Justice even indicted FedEx for its alleged role in the transporting of illegal prescription medication.
Even though it wasn’t cannabis, it still leads to the fact that the private companies will be on the lookout to a higher degree for illegal drugs. Because a warrant is required by the USPS, this in a way inhibits the process a bit and in turn, might have a lower rate of inspection. But all it takes is a little suspicion for them to get the warrant to open up and inspect a parcel at any given time. USPS even gives out a hefty bonus to employees that aid in the discovery of a package that may lead up to the arrest of a drug trafficker. In the end, USPS is still the safest bet, but not by a long shot. Both still carry a fair number of risks and getting caught in either of them is not going to end well. It appears that regardless of the statistics, people will take their chances on mailing out drugs. Even though the numbers have shown a lowering over the years, it is still happening. Either this reveals that people are just daring with their chances, or they simply don’t care. Postal workers are trained to inspect packages, and it is safe to assume they also have dogs that are trained to sniff out drug paraphernalia within packages. We all know how potent cannabis can smell, so it is safe to assume that drug traffickers have some knowledge of packaging materials.
What Are The Penalties Of Being Caught With Marijuana?
Reviewing all of these different numbers and statistics, it’s no surprise that the postal workers have an enormous task in having to prevent drug trafficking through the mail system. The huge amount of parcels and letters that are distributed each and every day is hard to comprehend. And out of all of the packages being sent off in each and every direction, narrowing it down the ones that could contain illicit substances is tedious. Drug traffickers will still take their chances on mailing out drugs in the hope that their packages will arrive at their destination. The USPS simply cannot catch every single one that goes through. Everyone makes mistakes, and the employees checking packages or missing package is not immune to these mistakes. The USPS doesn’t have the manpower to figure out where the drugs are originating from, nor who is going to be receiving them. The USPS can’t be blamed for something like this, mainly because it is just not sensible to scan and inspect every package that comes through the mail. The loss of money they are experiencing in the past decade already proves that they are under-resourced and facing the fact that they may have to downsize. For the first time in five years, 2016 was the first year that they made a profit. At the time, Obama still suggested that they get rid of 12,000 employees for the 2017 budget. 12,000 people out of jobs in the course of one year is not a small amount. We all know what Russian roulette is, and using the USPS to send out illegal drugs is nearly the same type of scenario. You are taking a chance on mailing out any type of drug and at risk of facing a felony if caught. Anything under 50 grams would end you up with five years in prison, and as the amount gets larger, so do the penalties.
In addition to that, if you are on the receiving end of a package of illegal substances, then you are considered as guilty as the one sending it. Prosecution exists in the state that the package was sent out in, and in the state that it was received in. Call it aiding and embedding a crime if you will. It would be like the one driving the runaway car away from a bank robbery. Using the USPS as a front line drug runner isn’t the smartest idea and they demand respect when being used, so before you dump your drugs into a parcel and try mailing it out, consider the risks and penalties. For being one of the oldest institutions ever to be created in the history of the United States, some would say that it demands a little respect for that alone.
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