TAMPA — Postal inspectors are the cops of the U.S. Postal Service, protecting carriers and ensuring trust in the mail. They're usually the ones pointing out wrongdoing, sometimes testifying at criminal trials.
But a Tampa postal inspector resigned in disgrace in July and admits to embezzling $5,000 in mailed money orders before reporting his lapse to a superior, a new court record shows.
John P. Ebsworth-Mojica, 40, said in a plea agreement filed Wednesday that he took a parcel containing five Postal Service money orders worth $1,000 each, all purchased in March and mailed from an unidentified Tampa post office.
"It's truly rare," said Paul Krenn, spokesman for the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, who could think of only one other similar case nationally in a force of just under 1,400 inspectors. "It blows the imagination, honestly, that we would have that."
The Tampa inspector's conduct was investigated by the Postal Service's independent Office of Inspector General, which polices internal matters, including theft by clerks, carriers and contractors. That type of theft is less rare. Even so, fewer than 1 percent of the nation's 488,000 postal workers get caught stealing mail, the agency reports.
Ebsworth, of Valrico, had worked for the Postal Inspection Service since 2007.
His plea agreement describes him brazenly using his own checking account at the Tampa Postal Federal Credit Union on June 12 to cash one of the money orders, which bore his signature.
He sent one to his mortgage company, applied a third to a Bank of America credit card bill and unsuccessfully tried later to deposit a fourth into his checking account, the record said.
It was rejected. The person who bought the money orders had by then reported the loss.
On June 23, Ebsworth tried to cash the fifth money order at a post office in Puerto Rico but it, too, had been reported and was seized, according to the plea.
The next day he told his supervisor of "an unspecified ethical lapse" and turned in his official vehicle and electronic devices.
He resigned July 7.
He has agreed to plead guilty on Jan. 7 to one count of embezzlement or theft of mail matter by a Postal Service officer or employee. A sentencing hearing would follow at a later date.
The crime, in theory, is punishable by up to five years in prison. However, with their prior clean records, postal workers who admit to theft often receive no more than probation.