Postage crimes that rocked the world

As normal, everyday members of society, the thought of ne'er-do-wells using the postal system for no good is sure to send shivers down spines. Your perfectly ordinary parcel could be sitting side by side with counterfeit items or prohibited goods and no-one would ever suspect a thing unless customs and/or inspectors take a closer look.

While criminals' main focus is fast becoming internet fraud, thinking that postal crime is a strictly old-school tactic would be foolhardy. In fact, some of the globe's biggest crimes have involved crooks trying - but failing - to exploit the mail system. Here are a couple of examples of both old-school and modern criminals who fancied their chances on the postal network.

Tax fraud

Rochester, New York, late 1940s. Samuel Norman Savitt was rolling in cash after making a small fortune in the stock market during World War II. The citizens of Rochester turned to Savitt to handle their investments and handle them he did; decent returns satisfied his customers but Savitt also siphoned off some of their earnings too.

Not only that, Savitt asked 'investors' to make out cheques to him and sign blank tax forms. He then changed the information on the draft forms and adjusted the amount of his client's tax deduction on the final documents. Savitt pocketed the difference between what his clients really owed and what his false forms claimed.

Savitt's downfall was using the US mail system to send the tax forms. The US Postal Inspection Service sought to nail Savitt and the team found he had been using the system to file these fraudulent forms. However, by the time they obtained a warrant he had already fled the country and the case went cold.

Two years later, inspectors learned he joined the French Foreign Legion and he was arrested in Paris, extradited and sent to prison; learning the hard way that crime doesn't pay.

Forged stamps

It is not just fraudulent forms and counterfeit goods that authorities have dealt with. Turkish police managed to seize a sizable number of forged stamps after raiding ten hideouts in the country.

Around four million fake British postage stamps were recovered by police and 11 people detained in connection with the operation in Istanbul, resulting in a significant impact to their operations. Nine of those were detained and sent to court, accused of forming a criminal gang to commit forgery.

This case comes soon after more than £200,000 worth of forged euros and dozens of £50 notes, all totalling £500,000, were seized by Croatian police. Eighteen people across five cities and towns in the north of Croatia had the intention of spreading counterfeit currency, possibly through the mail, but police were on the ball and managed to arrest them before the forgeries made their way into circulation.

These are just a couple of examples of postage crimes to impact the globe and no doubt there are many more. Thanks to the hard work and diligence of police and inspection services around the world, though, innocent citizens can continue to use the mail system as a safe, reliable way of sending parcels.

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