PhotoHere's a piece of advice which everybody in the year 2014 should already know: if you want to see photographs of attractive women in various states of undress, the Internet offers millions of such images absolutely free, so there's no need for you to risk felony mail-tampering charges via stealing other people's issues of Playboy.

But postal inspector Quan Howard, a former federal employee of the year, presumably did not know this. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that Howard was charged in federal court this week for allegedly using his supervisory status to illegally filch valuables from the mail stream:

[Howard] used his position as a supervisor to order employees at a San Jose processing and distribution center to call his office or cell phone whenever cash, drugs, electronics, jewelry, rare coins, precious metals and other memorabilia were found loose in the mail …. Federal prosecutors in San Jose charged Howard this week with delaying and destroying mail, theft of mail and possession of stolen mail from 2013 to 2014.

Hoarded valuables

Howard told postal employees that he would track down the items' rightful owners and return their possessions to them. Instead, he allegedly hoarded the valuables for himself, stashing some in various hiding places around the mail distribution center, and smuggling others out to his own house. He also allegedly sought out and disabled various security cameras in the mail center, so he could commit his thefts sight unseen, but couldn't find and disable them all, which is why he eventually got caught:

Although at one point Howard clambered onto a desk and chair and managed to disable a camera lens near a ceiling panel, investigators said they had many surveillance images showing him stealing mail, the affidavit said.... At one point in July, after being notified by an employee about loose mail containing what was suspected to be marijuana, Howard took the marijuana and other mail, including passports and "collectable 1980s-era Playboy magazines," the affidavit said.

Thus far there's been no mention of whether people who had valuable mail go missing out of San Jose have any reasonable chance of reclaiming their items. If you are the rightful owner of the gun parts, electronics, autographed collection of Joan Rivers jewelry, or other valuables Howard is alleged to have stolen, you might try filing a lost-mail claim with the post office. But if you are the owner of the marijuana or other illicit items … just let it go.

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