When two unidentified individuals approached 47-year-old New Jersey mail carrier Earl Champagne about giving tax refund checks to them, he should have known better. However, he did not. Now, he faces decades in prison, after pleading guilty to one count of theft of US Mail and a count of theft of government money for stealing more than $400,000 worth of checks issued by the IRS, in 2014.
Prosecutors said that from March to July of 2014, Champagne, a 19-year veteran mail carrier, was told to look for IRS mailings directed to individuals with “Spanish” names. He was told to pick the checks out of the mail to hand over to them or to notify them that checks were in mailboxes that they could intercept.
Champagne was paid $50 for each check he stole. He admitted to stealing a total of 72 IRS checks worth $442,776, altogether. If he was paid the amount negotiated for each of the checks he stole, he would have made $3,600. That amount seems measly in comparison to the potential maximum penalties 15 years in prison that each of the charges he caught carries. Additionally, Champagne could be slapped with a fine of $250,000. He will learn his fate on August 3.
U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman gave props to IRS-Criminial Investigation unit and the U.S. Postal Service’s Office of Inspector General for executing the investigation into Champagne’s crimes.